(Photo by Serena Thomas)
What happens when 80 entrepreneurial high school students from Baltimore city spend five weeks creating, innovating and coming together to launch their own ventures? On Friday, August 3, spectators at Baltimore Center Stage received the answer as members of Dent Education’s 2019 Bet on Baltimore cohort presented at the organization’s third annual summer showcase.
Bet on Baltimore, Dent Education’s flagship program, is an intensive, paid, 5-week summer internship that imparts design thinking, making and entrepreneurial skills to under-resourced Baltimore City high school students to support them in launching their own businesses or social ventures.
The program culminates with a summer showcase at which students present their learnings onstage and through an interactive gallery walk of their work. Students who best embodied ‘Dent Mindsets’ over the course of the 5 weeks were also presented with awards following the presentations.
This year, 80 students from 16 different high schools were members of Dent’s third Bet on Baltimore cohort. This number has grown rapidly from the first cohort, which was made up of eight students, and last year’s, which included 40 students. This summer, students were divided up into six different tracks across six different Baltimore sites: Dent Media, Design Your Life, Startup Garage at Station North Tool Library, Startup Garage at Open Works, Dent Fashion and Social Innovation.
Each site had two coaches working with students to apply design thinking principles to different challenges and included ‘Food for Thought’ speakers who stopped by over lunches to discuss their careers. “While I was with Bet on Baltimore, I enjoyed all of the opportunities that I was given and how much my coaches, Alex Ballard and Irene Bantigue, and my team pushed me to become and continue to be a leader,” said Di’Ja Thompson, a student who took part in the Social Innovation track.
Here’s a look at what students learned through the various tracks:
Students learned graphic design skills through programs like Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, and InDesign and took field trips to locations like the Baltimore Museum of Art. Projects included rebranding and selling soap with labels they designed and working with the Dent Fashion track to create logos for students’ fashion lines. Students Kai Lee and Zalaikhah Hazleton presented on their experiences with Dent Media.
Design Your Life
Members of this track planned their post-high school pathways by applying design thinking principles and prototyping different potential futures for themselves. These students learned more about the college essay writing process, toured schools, created LinkedIn accounts and learned about different careers in law, finance, cosmetology, the military and more. Students Mical Unoka and Latise Parker discussed their future plans with the audience.
Startup Garage: Station North Tool Library
Students learned to woodwork and broke out into three businesses whose products were created at the Station North Tool Library. They learned how to use tools like drills, hammers and saws in order to make their own products, which they sold to make revenue. Team Cariñosa, comprised of Tavontae McDowell, Semaje Fitzgerald, Tayanita Watson and Dayhalee Diaz, spoke about their business which sold plant stands, jewelry and jewelry stands that the team at locations such as Lexington Market and R. House.
Startup Garage: Open Works
Similar to the other Startup Garage track, group members built and sold products they created at the Open Works makerspace, learning textile, laser cutting and woodworking skills along the way. Tavon Allen and Tyler Huddleston of Team Fearless showcased the shirts they had sold over the course of the program.
Students discussed issues that impact Baltimore, such as homelessness, gun violence and food apartheid, and applied design thinking principles to come up with solutions. Di’Ja Thompson, Shaniya Jordan, Kristin Warner, Paul Howlett and Aaron Allen-Carter of 4Bmore chose to tackle the issue of policing and gun violence in Baltimore and presented on the Instagram account they created to leverage social media in order to reach and inspire the youth of the city to speak up on these issues.
Here, students combined design thinking with fashion to practice brainstorming, sketching their designs, empathizing with their customers, and iterating in order to create their own fashion lines. In the process, they created profiles for their ideal customers and spoke to potential customers at locations like the Towson Town Center to gain insights which they would bring back to their designs. Team Triple C, made up of Aniyah Gardner, Cory Clinton and Keila Bennett, discussed the process they went through to create their eight fashion looks over the five weeks.
Regardless of site, students picked up useful hard and soft skills throughout the summer. In addition to learning how to create their own products, they grew their public speaking, networking and communication skills, which they will carry with them beyond Bet on Baltimore. Tayanita Watson, who participated in the StartUp Garage: Station North Tool Library track, commented that she learned that “communication is crucial” during her Bet on Baltimore experience. She realized the importance of effective communication, even as a self-identifying introvert, to be able to best understand your customers as well as your own team.
Dent’s goal as an organization is for their students to live with agency and that message was felt across presentations for each track. Team 4bmore closed out the presentations with the message that they “want to show people that adults are not the only ones that can make a change. Youth have a powerful voice but it is often ignored.” They said they “want to give youth the power to make a difference in their community.” Through this summer programming, the students who participated in this third iteration of Bet on Baltimore are well set up to make a dent in the Baltimore community and beyond.-30-
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