When Sarah Hemminger was in high school, her best friend Ryan’s family unit was shattered when his mom was in a car accident and temporarily paralyzed. Ryan’s mom lost her job and they had to move from suburbia into public housing. She became depressed and addicted to painkillers and began selling them to support her own drug habit. This all coincided with Ryan’s transition into high school and he ended up failing all of his classes freshman year.  

But a group of teachers banded together to not only provide tutoring, but also clothing, food and money to keep running water and heat in Ryan’s home. They became his extended family and by his senior year he was an honor roll student and varsity athlete, who was preparing to attend the United States Naval Academy. 

Fast forward to 2004, and Ryan and Sarah are married and living in Baltimore. Together they founded Thread, an organization that works to harness the power of relationships to improve outcomes for young people facing the most significant opportunity gaps. At the time, Sarah was a lonely graduate student, searching for a way to feel connected. She knew there must be other high school students like Ryan who were exceptional individuals in extraordinary situations. Together, they could find a sense of belonging. From this isolation sparked the beginnings of Thread. Thread’s first cohort of students made the choice to welcome Sarah and a group of other volunteers into their lives. It was those same students who designed the programmatic framework we continue to execute on to this day.

To hear more about Thread’s founding story, check out our Co-Founder and CEO’s TEDx talk or 2019 remarks at Emerson Collective’s DemoDay.

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