Helping Baltimore students realize their potential with over 800 volunteers and more than 175 community partners
Sarah Hemminger is the CEO and co-founder of Thread. Founded in 2004, Thread connects a family of volunteer and community collaborators with high school students who need support outside of the classroom. An overwhelming majority (92%) of 5-year Thread students have graduated high school, with nearly as many accepted into college and 80% graduating from a 4- or 2-year degree or certificate program. By linking members of Baltimore’s community, compelling academic success, and fostering social change, Thread seeks to curtail the cycle of poverty, crime, and lack of education for the benefit of all students.
Can you tell us about getting connected with the Abell Foundation?
SARAH HEMMINGER: As Thread began to grow, I was still planning to continue on with science and take a job at the NIH following completion of my PhD. Right before that time, I actually got a phone call from the Abell Foundation: “Would you like to come meet with Bob Embry?”
And at the time, I had no idea what the Abell Foundation was. We were really a small organization. I didn’t know who Bob Embry was. But at the time, I had a young man named Clarence living with me and so I didn’t have time after school to get Clarence back up to our house in Eldersburg, and I also had just started an aerobics class. So there I am—I have soaking wet hair, I had on a sundress and flip flops, and I have Clarence, who’s 6’6” and has tattoos all over his entire body—and I get in the elevator to go up to meet Mr. Embry. I realized very quickly that I had probably not assessed the situation properly.
It was in that meeting though that my life was radically changed, because Bob was so kind. He invited Clarence to join us. We walked through a history of Thread, and up until that point, I didn’t even realize that I could do Thread full time. We had been an all-volunteer organization. I was unpaid, and it was Bob who really opened my eyes to the possibilities that I should think about growing the organization, that it was possible to do it full-time, and then he went so far as to open a number of doors and introduce me to people in Baltimore who then helped make our growth a reality. A lot of times, in both our students’ lives and my own life, meeting people who really can see things in you that you can’t necessarily see in yourself, change your trajectory in unthinkable ways.
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