This year’s Baltimore Community Fellowships include a free, community-based health clinic for extremely low-income people; a drop-in resource center for homeless youth; an alliance to help urban farmers gain access to information and resources; a program to provide legal help for detained non-citizens; a soccer, tutoring and mentoring program for refugees and immigrants; and an education program that uses therapy dogs to teach empathy and nonaggressive conflict resolution to young children.
Editors’ Note: Names and projects for the new Baltimore Community Fellows can be found at the end of this release.
BALTIMORE—An attorney will use her skills to represent non-citizens as they work their way through both the criminal justice and immigration systems, which often conflict. A teacher will use a community gardening program in Curtis Bay-Brooklyn to improve residents’ health and increase awareness of the need for land stewardship. A consultant-turned-activist will teach underserved youth about leadership, entrepreneurship and community service. And a social worker will work with young people to advocate for and build a drop-in resource center for homeless youth and youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system.
These are just four of the eight people whom the Open Society Institute-Baltimore selected to be 2011 Baltimore Community Fellows, as the program celebrates its 14th year of supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve their dreams to improve the city.
Each of this year’s fellows will receive $48,750 to work full-time for 18 months, implementing creative strategies to assist and revitalize underserved communities in Baltimore. This year’s new class brings the total number of Baltimore Community Fellows to 124—most of whom still are actively working in the city, continuing to bring their energy and ideas to effect social change.
From their proposed projects to their personal stories, the Class of 2011 is extremely diverse. Fellows will take on a wide variety of projects, including a free clinic for people who are significantly underemployed and can’t afford health insurance; a tutoring and mentoring program that uses organized soccer to help refugees and immigrants adjust to life in the United States and do well in school; and a program that uses therapy dogs to teach elementary- and middle-school-aged children about empathy and non-violent conflict resolution.
In keeping with a progressive movement in our society toward sustainable food efforts, OSI-Baltimore has awarded two fellowships to community activists who will work to bring more healthful foods to Baltimore, which, like many urban cities, lacks plentiful options for healthful eating.
Maya Kosok, a community outreach coordinator, plans to create a co-op-like alliance for urban farmers, helping them to break down barriers that might keep them from being successful—or from ever getting started in the first place. Her project will make it easier for city-based farmers to access expensive equipment, labor and marketing tools, for example, and will help increase food access and education throughout the city.
“In Baltimore city, there’s a perfect storm of vacant land, unemployment and the reality that we are all already purchasing food,” Kosok says. “We’re just trying to localize purchasing a little bit to benefit city residents. There’s the real possibility of producing a significant amount of food if we capitalize on vacant land and the potential of our workforce.”
And Jason Reed, a teacher, will bring his urban agriculture skills and knowledge to a more personal level, working with the schools, churches and residents near the Filbert Street Garden in Curtis Bay-Brooklyn—which Reed says is a “food desert.”
“They don’t have a grocery store. And in the places where most of the residents shop, there is no produce,” he says. “I am planning to develop a method to get the food from the garden out into the community. I envision the garden as a hub for changing the climate in the community.”
“Our newest Community Fellows are yet another group of dynamic and committed social activists, each with an original vision for bringing opportunity and greater justice to Baltimore,” said Pamela King, OSI-Baltimore Director of Community Fellowships. “This is the 14th class of fellows, yet it is always surprising and inspiring to see that there is no shortage of innovative approaches and solutions for our city. Working across issues and neighborhoods, these fellows bring hope, new methodologies, resources and advocacy skills to residents throughout the city, mobilizing them to take action to meet their own needs and to revitalize Baltimore communities.”
Fellow Lara Law, a social worker, will support a group of youth leaders who are working to establish a comprehensive drop-in resource center for homeless youth and youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system. Many of the youth leaders she works with have themselves been in unstable living situations, and know how challenging that makes everything else in life.
These young people “identified this kind of drop-in center as a missing piece in the array of services available in Baltimore city,” Law says. “They said they wish it had existed before, and they know people who will need it now.” The youth will use the center to meet basic needs such as showering, laundry and storing important documents. They also will be able to participate in independent living classes and connect with schools or employment.
While working as an attorney in the immigration clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law, Fellow Emily Datnoff discovered that criminal matters and immigration matters often conflict. And public defenders working to keep clients from serving time in jail are usually unaware of the tension between the two.
“A lot of times what is best for the criminal defendant can have dire consequences for that person when they get back into the immigration system,” Datnoff says. She will use her OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowship to provide immigration advice to public defenders, with the goal of ensuring that clients who are charged with crimes won’t be rendered inadmissible for immigration relief or deported after they’ve made their way through the criminal justice system. And she’ll also use her skills to represent the clients themselves, pro bono.
And La Tasha Vanzie gave up a successful career as a consultant to establish a youth- and career-development program with a goal of empowering and training underserved youth. These youth will design and implement social entrepreneurial community service projects, network with professionals, establish a portfolio of work and travel outside the country. Most of the youth are extremely low-income, Vanzie says. Some are homeless.
“There are so many underserved youth who have talents, who have goals and dreams,” she says. “But they don’t have the network, or the training, or the things necessary to help make those dreams a reality.”
Open Society Institute-Baltimore launched the Baltimore Community Fellowships in 1998. The program has received support from OSI-Baltimore and several other foundations and individuals, including The Baltimore Community Foundation, The Clayton Baker Trust, The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, The Lois and Irving Blum Foundation Inc., The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Cohen Opportunity Fund, The Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation, the John Meyerhoff and Lenel Srochi Meyerhoff Fund, the Moser Family Philanthropic Fund, The Osprey Foundation, the PNC Foundation, the Alison and Arnold Richman Fund, The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, and numerous individual donors.
A six-person committee selected the eight finalists after an extensive process, including peer reviews, site visits and interviews.
2011 CLASS 14 OSI-BALTIMORE COMMUNITY FELLOWS
Emily Datnoff – Attorney
Emily will establish the Baltimore Deportation Defense Project to help lawyers who represent non-citizens understand the interplay between the criminal justice and immigration systems and effectively represent their clients. She will provide low-cost or pro bono services to represent detained non-citizens in the immigration system.
Andrew Gaddis – Research Assistant
Andrew will build upon the successes of the Charm City Clinic, a free community-based health center that he helped to establish in East Baltimore. Based on the model of the Men and Families Center, a community center that has been serving its neighborhood for over fifteen years, the clinic provides screenings, case management, health education and community outreach.
Natalie Keegan – Certified Dog Trainer
Natalie will improve and expand upon Kids-4-K9s, an education program that uses the natural bond between children and animals to teach youth to control their anger, find non-violent ways to solve conflicts and increase their ability to empathize. She will bring therapy dogs into two schools to encourage less aggressive behavior among city youth.
Maya Kosok – Community Outreach Coordinator
Maya will create an alliance to help urban farmers across the city to gain access to information and resources—such as large equipment, labor and marketing—in a cost-effective manner to increase their productivity and success. The project will help create economic opportunity for city-based farmers with a larger goal of increasing food access and education throughout the city.
Lara Law – Social Worker
Lara will support a group of youth leaders who are working to establish a comprehensive drop-in resource center for homeless youth and youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system. The young people will be able to use the drop-in center to meet basic needs, such as laundry and showering, to participate in independent living classes taught primarily by their peers, and to apply for government benefits and connect with schools or employment.
Jill Pardini – Athlete/Teacher
Jill will expand and improve upon Soccer Without Borders, a tutoring and mentoring program she founded that uses organized soccer to help refugees and immigrants adjust to life in the United States, do well in and out of school, and stay physically and emotionally fit.
Jason Reed – Teacher
Jason will continue his work with the Curtis Bay-Brooklyn Urban-Agriculture and Stewardship Program, which focuses on community gardening at the Filbert Street Garden. The project will use urban agriculture to improve the health of residents and students in that community, foster community pride, increase awareness of the need for land stewardship and teach participants about good nutrition.
La Tasha Vanzie – Consultant
La Tasha will build EVOKU Actualized Global Leadership Experience (EAGLE), a project designed to train underserved youth to design and implement social entrepreneurial community service projects, network with professionals, establish a portfolio of work and travel outside the country. The project, which focuses on leadership and career development, will accept students from across the city.
As the Open Society Foundations’ U. S. Programs only field office, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an over-reliance on incarceration, and obstacles that impede youth in succeeding inside and out of the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore. Before we make a single grant, we analyze the root causes of a problem and examine research and innovative practices. Because we aim for lasting, sustainable solutions, we engage public and private partners from the start. It is only then, with a clear picture of the problem, that we begin to focus our approach and diligently craft a roadmap for change.