Diversity & Inclusion

Open Society Institute-Baltimore welcomes 10 social entrepreneurs into community fellowship

The 2019 fellows are addressing challenges in Baltimore's underserved communities including food conditions in prisons, housing instability, unemployment and more.

Stressed jobseekers. (Photo via stock.adobe.com)

Chosen from a pool of over 150 applicants, Open Society Institute-Baltimore announced the 2019 cohort of OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows this week.

The new fellows will each receive $60,000 over 18 months to support local projects in an effort to tackle challenges in Baltimore’s underserved communities.

This year’s fellows look to address a wide range of issues such as food conditions in prisons, housing instability, unemployment and underserved populations navigating high-risk pregnancy. They join a network of 210 fellows that has been growing since 1997.

Here’s a look at this year’s cohort, with descriptions from OSI-Baltimore:

Elyshia Aseltine, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at Towson University, is starting Fair Chance Higher Education, a center that supports criminal justice system-impacted people in their pursuit of higher education.

Janet Glover-Kerkvliet looks to establish the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group (BJHSG), a volunteer-led group that provides social, emotional, and psychological support to the long-term unemployed and under-employed with a focus on job seekers over age 45 who have not worked for six months or more. She joined the group as a member in 2012 and was stepped up to take over once original leadership left.

Damien Haussling will develop the Baltimore Furniture Bank to connect low-income individuals and families to gently used furniture and other household items by working with case managers, social workers and similar professionals. Experiencing homelessness firsthand in the past, Haussling now looks to empower and provide resources for those going through difficult times.

Marvin Hayes, in partnership with the Baltimore Compost Collective, will increase youth education in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay neighborhood regarding composting and green jobs.

Kanav Kathuria will establish the Farm to Prison Project in an effort to address the public health crisis regarding food conditions in the United States’ prisons. The initiative seeks to improve all aspects of food served in correctional facilities and build alternatives to exploitative practices from food service companies. The project includes focus groups with incarcerated individuals, as well as working together with public health professionals and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to implement solutions.

Alphonso Mayo leads Mentoring Mentors, a pipeline of positive African-American mentors for inner-city youth. Growing up with a mother who was addicted to drugs and an incarcerated father, he rose above that adversity to earn a human services degree from Stevenson University in 2014 and a certificate in nonprofit management from Johns Hopkins University last year. Now, he looks to give back to Baltimore.

Dinorah Olmos created La Escuela, sus Hijos y Usted: Empowering Latino Parents to Support Student Success as an initiative designed to educate, empower and inspire Spanish-speaking Latino parents to effectively engage in the parent-school community.

Mariah Pratt Bonkowski is battling food instability and hygiene poverty with Parts of Peace (PoP) Pantries. This offers pantries nonperishable food or hygiene products, thus increasing access to emergency food and hygiene items for families in need.

Ana Rodney formed MOMCares as an initiative to provide prenatal and postpartum Doula services to low-income African-American women navigating high-risk pregnancy or with a child involved in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doulas work with mothers during and after pregnancy to provide emotional support and education about pregnancy.

Kendra Summers is combatting the need of housing instability for Spanish speaking residents in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay community with Casa Amable (kind home), an initiative to support emergency housing services, promote long-term stable housing and help Latinx residents learn tenants’ rights through a housing-based ESOL curriculum. The project involves developing a curriculum about tenant rights and the housing process, using this curriculum to instruct local residents about the housing process while also teaching them English and establishing a task force to help people experiencing emergency eviction.

Companies: Open Society Foundations

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