OSI Community Fellows | WYPR

OSI Community Fellows

2019 OSI Baltimore Community Fellow: Dinorah Olmos and Kendra Summers

Jan 7, 2020

Open Society Institute

Some of the most powerful support comes from peers who have survived the same challenges. We meet two Open Society Institute fellows whose service grows from their personal experience. First, Janet Glover Kerkvliet tells us how she came to lead the ‘Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group.’ It offers emotional counseling and practical training to older job seekers. Then Damien Haussling describes his project to help people who were homeless ... find the furnishings they need to make their new house ... a home.

For more information about Baltimore Furniture Bank, visit this link. For more information on Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group, visit this link.

OSI Baltimore

Two of the new Open Society Institute-Baltimore Community Fellows are dedicated to supporting and uplifting students in Baltimore City schools.

With her project, Represent Youth: Baltimore School Justice Initiative, Aarti Sidhu provides legal representation for students facing expulsion and suspension; the idea is to make sure they know their rights and what resources are available to them. Ciera Daniel helps African-American boys in elementary school build confidence through mentoring, education and the power of positive affirmation, with the 'Young Kings Leadership Academy.'

To learn more about all of the fellows, visit this link.

For more information about the Maryland Suspension Representation Project, visit this link or call this number: 443-873-3531

OSI Baltimore

Returning ex-prisoners face a steep climb back into society. Some of the challenges they face may grow out of how they’re treated in the criminal justice system. Today we meet two Open Society Institute Baltimore Community fellows working to improve those experiences. Jennay Ghowrwal’s project, REMIND, will train defense attorneys to advocate better on behalf of clients who suffer from mental health issues. And Emily Thompson’s project, Pivot, addresses the gap in re-entry services for female ex-offenders.

For more information on the 2018 OSI Baltmore Community fellows, visit this link.

For more information on project REMIND, visit this link.


Alex Long, an Open Society Institute Baltimore Community Fellow, talks about his “McElderry Youth Redemption Boxing Program” where kids learn to meditate, have fun, and blow off steam. He believes the discipline of boxing teaches much more than physical skill.

Creative problem solving is a valuable skill to have in work and in life. Open Society Institute fellow Jackie Bello is dedicated to that concept. She talks about her program, “Bet on Baltimore,” where she teaches young people to think like designers to solve problems.

OSI fellow Matt Burke is a volunteer who runs Food Rescue -- a project of the Baltimore Free Farm, through which unwanted but nutritious food is distributed. Part of mission: rescue some of the nearly 40 percent of the country’s food that goes to waste simply because it’s imperfect. Check out more information - including how to get involved -  here.

Because music transcends language barriers and evokes emotion, it’s the tool one of this year’s ‘Open Society Institute Baltimore’ fellows intends has singled out: Amy Tenney plans to harness music’s therapeutic potential with her project, ‘Healing and Community Integration through Music for Refugees and Immigrants.’

Open Society Institute Baltimore

Living in a food desert -- where fresh, healthy food is not easily accessible -- is reality for one in four Baltimore City residents. We meet Eric Jackson, of the Black Yield Institute, who is working to combat what he calls ‘food apartheid.’  Jackson is a 2017 Open Society Institute Baltimore fellow; he’ll receive $60,000 over the next 18 months to create the ‘Building Black Land and Food Sovereignty Practice.’ Working in the Cherry Hill and Poppleton neighborhoods, Jackson intends to organize community-driven cooperative food ventures to create access to nutritious, affordable foods. We also meet Faith Cunningham, a resident of Cherry Hill, to learn what her grocery options really look like and why she's willing to travel to find healthier foods.

Open Society Institute Baltimore

Combining his longtime advocacy for people with disabilities and his criminal law background, 2017 ‘Open Society Institute Baltimore’ fellow, Munib Lohrasbi plans to create the ‘Prisoner Protection and Advocacy Committee.’ Working in partnership with Disability Rights Maryland, Lohrasbi will perform site visits and observe how intake screenings are done; then he’ll compile and disseminate the data. OSI is a nonprofit that focuses on addressing the needs of Baltimore’s underserved communities and supporting innovative solutions to longstanding problems. 

Earrings. Necklaces. Tote bags. T-shirts. Fashionable, locally made, and designed by young people. ‘Youth in Business’ is an arts and business program that teaches young people how to create, market, and sell art products. It operates under the umbrella organization Jubilee Arts, which offers arts programming to the residents of Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, and surrounding neighborhoods.

We talk with Kim Loper, a community artist and former Americorps Fellow with Jubilee Arts. As one of this year’s ‘Open Society Institute Baltimore’ fellows, Kim will be working to expand Youth In Business into a design collective. We also meet Laila Amin, a sophomore at the Islamic Community School in West Baltimore who participates in the project.

The nonprofit Open Society Institute has awarded ten grants for community projects. We hear from one of the fellows, Ryan Flanigan, about the Remington Community Land Trust, an effort to create affordable home-buying access for low-income residents. And Terrell Askew, a resident of Remington and a member of the Greater Remington Improvement Association, shares his thoughts on preserving the neighborhood's character.

How do you create a path of upward mobility for Latinos in the food industry? How do you encourage corner stores -- those either owned by Latinos or serving mostly Latino customers -- to offer healthier choices? We hear from Katie Miller, who will address these issues as one of this year’s ten Open Society Institute community fellows.

Bright and early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, you can find Isa Olufemi running with students from East Baltimore’s Dunbar High School. His mission isn’t just to promote physical fitness; he wants to instill lessons that his students can take with them after graduation and give them a dose of college advising. We hear about Isa Olufemi’s goals with the Poet Pride Run Club, as a newly selected Open Society Institute Community Fellow.

Courtesy of Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap

When Melissa Badeker stopped teaching elementary school, she didn’t know what to do with all of the material she had accumulated, supplies she purchased with her own money. Sensing this problem was widespread, Melissa created the Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap to collect and distribute free school supplies for educators, home school parents, and daycare operators. Melissa Badeker recently received an OSI-Baltimore community fellowship to support her idea.