It was announced that several student projects received $90K in funding at Philanthropy Tank Baltimore’s first ever finals event on Nov. 19. (Courtesy photo)

By AFRO Staff

Philanthropy Tank Baltimore, an initiative that empowers Baltimore’s next generation of CHANGEmakers, wrapped up its first annual finals event virtually on Nov. 19 by announcing $90K to student projects that address gun violence, financial literacy, human trafficking, food insecurity and more. Five local business and nonprofit leaders, serving as mentors, heard presentations from the Baltimore City students and determined the funding levels for each project.

“These students are extraordinary in their vision and passion to address challenges in their communities,” said Joann Levy, executive director of Philanthropy Tank Baltimore. “We look forward to witnessing the progress that each of them makes as they move their ideas into action.”

In preparation for the event, the finalists worked alongside a team of coaches from the business community to sharpen their presentation skills and build confidence. They each presented personal stories, project goals and budgets with hopes of securing the necessary funding and mentorship to implement their social impact program.

Jayda Harris, a Baltimore City College junior and project lead for “Play Your Way,” a project looking to build and improve playgrounds in West Baltimore, described playgrounds near her house growing up as “decrepit with trash littered across the ground.” In implementing this project, Harris and her teammate Tayla Chambers, also a Baltimore City College junior “want to make sure that all children have access to a playground so that can ease stress placed on parents, reduce the crime rate in the city and make sure that city youth can play their way.”

All eight projects received their requested funding amounts or more, and were assigned a Philanthropist Mentor to work with for the next year:

Explo Foods: Isaiah Dingle, a senior at Merganthalar Vocational Technical High School (MERVO) received $10,500 in funding and will work with mentors Kera Ritter and Anthony Rodgers. Dingle plans to build a hydroponic garden close to Goodnow Community Center Police Athletic League (PAL) with the goal of providing fresh food options to families living in the Frankford neighborhood, a designated food desert in Baltimore City.

Hungry for Change: D’Mond Davis, a junior at Patapsco High School received $12,000 in funding and will also work with Ritter and Rodgers. Davis will help prevent minority communities from potentially developing life-threatening diseases, by partnering with Heart Kitchen at Living Classrooms to host a meal preparation delivery service that will serve low income and minority communities in Baltimore.

Life, Light and Power Podcast: Four students from Connexions Academy, junior Timothy Brewer, senior Davon Moore, sophomore Andrea Quarles and sophomore Imani Groce, received $12,000 and will work with mentor Stephanie Amponsah. The group will use their own personal experiences to serve as a positive influence for younger youth by producing the Life, Light, and Power Podcast, a forum for youth in the City to discuss difficult issues and their resolutions.

Linking for Brilliance: Seniors Diane Fakinlede of Western School for Technology and Environmental Science, Bethany Tubman of George Washington Carver School for Arts and Technology, Adeola Adekoya of Woodlawn High School and Christian Jackson of Mount St. Joseph’s High School received $12,000 and will work with mentor Traci Callendar to provide direct mentorship to 6-8th grade students at Calvin Rodwell Elementary/Middle School and help them improve their financial literacy skills. 

Memory Creation: Daion Walker, sophomore at Academy for Career and College Exploration (ACCE), Khary Trower, junior at City Neighbors High School and Quintrell Reese, a freshman at George Washington Carver High School received $15,000 and will work with mentor Callendar to use the adopt-a-lot process to build a memorial garden in the Upton neighborhood where youth can honor family members who have been lost to gun violence. 

NOT FOR SALE: Ania McNair, a senior at Reginald F. Lewis High School, Marque Knox, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Lanae Williams, a sophomore at Patapsco High School, Naim Adams, a freshman at Edmondson High School and Zion Pittman, a sophomore at Western High School received $11,500 and will work with mentor Amponsah. The group will launch NOT FOR SALE, a human trafficking initiative, to raise awareness and provide education and prevention resources to the Baltimore City community.

Play Your Way: Juniors at Baltimore City College, Chambers and Harris received $10,000 and will work with mentor Kabir Goyal to build a new playground in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and improve existing neighborhood playgrounds in the community to create a safe space to youth to play.

RWE (Reducing Waste Entrepreneurship): Esaiah Watson, junior at Vivian T. Thomas Medical Academy and Devin Mintz, junior at Merganthalar Vocational Technical High School (MERVO) received $8,500 in funding and will work with mentor Goyal to reduce waste in Baltimore and address illegal dumping and excess waste in Baltimore by exploring ways for it to become a sustainable energy source and made into 3D printing material.

Starting next month, students will begin working virtually with Philanthropist Mentors Ritter, the founder of the consulting firm The Ritter Group and former chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake; Rodgers, a real estate development executive; Callendar, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Amponsah, vice president of Dream BIG Foundation; and Goyal, a managing director and senior portfolio manager at Brown Capital Management, to begin implementing their ideas.

“This was an incredibly inspiring event to be a part of,” said Amponsah. “Baltimore City youth are extremely talented and I’m grateful that outlets like this exist that encourage students to dream up ideas and solve real world problems.”

Philanthropy Tank follows a unique model that pulls together financial and human capital support from the business community to ensure the student projects get a successful and sustainable start. The program would not be possible without support from a group of local Philanthropist Investors lead by Theo C. Rodgers, chairman and chief executive officer of A&R Development, the five Philanthropist Mentors who have committed their time and expertise, and a group of founding partners that include Alliance Bernstein, Allegis Group, David and Beth Swirnow, Fader Innovation Center, Footlick Family Foundation, T. Rowe Price Foundation, and Whiting Turner.

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