Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Hands-On STEM Education at the 29th Street Community Center


Over the past several months, a group of dedicated students at the 29th Street Community Center have been participating in Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO). MSO is an after-school STEM enrichment program which encourages students to tackle a variety of STEM-focused challenges in a fun, but competitive, environment.

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In the fall, students selected MSO competition events they found interesting. They met twice a week after-school to practice these events and prepare for the Baltimore City tournament. These hands-on activities range from tests, for which students have to study specific STEM subjects, to construction challenges that require students to design and build structures, vehicles, or rockets. With help from a Johns Hopkins University student mentor group, the Charm City Science League, our students excelled in their chosen activities.

This past month, our students’ and their mentors’ hard work paid off at the city-wide tournament, where they placed 4th overall and qualified to compete in the state championship, scheduled to take place next month! Our students placed top five in several individual events at the Baltimore City tournament, including: 1st: Bridge Building, Fossils; 2nd: Wheeled Vehicle; 3rd: Anatomy, Dynamic Planet; 4th: Water Bottle Rockets, Crime Busters; and 5th: Can’t Judge a Powder, Write It Do It.

We are very proud of our students’ accomplishments and we are excited to share their success with everyone!








Register for Summer Camp! The 29th Street Community Center provides exciting summer camp opportunities for kids of different ages and interests. Click here for page 1 and here for page 2 of the summer camp flyer. Make sure to register soon because space is limited! If you have any questions, please contact Center Director, Hannah Gardi.

Neighborhood Institute Workshop Preview: “Bringing Families to Baltimore” by Steven Gondol and Annie Milli

If your neighborhood is looking to better attract young families and new homeowners, ‘Bringing Families to Baltimore’ by Steve Gondol and Annie Milli of Live Baltimore is the workshop for you. To attend this workshop, and many others, register here.

Across Baltimore’s many diverse neighborhoods, attracting and retaining young families is incredibly important. Young families are more likely to invest and work to improve their communities, but even the most loyal, active families will pack up and move elsewhere in the City, or to the County, if they feel their neighborhood is not meeting all of their needs.

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Steve Gondol, Executive Director of Live Baltimore.


Neighborhoods that are losing families and young homeowners are not typically healthy, growing neighborhoods. Live Baltimore’s Way to Stay family retention program has analyzed Baltimore’s neighborhoods, looking at factors that are most likely to attract and retain young families. These selections are based on feedback and criteria from real City families to identify “Five Star Family Neighborhoods”. In their workshop, Steve Gondol and Annie Millli of Live Baltimore will share the Way to Stay selection criteria and how you can improve your standing as a family-friendly neighborhood. Check out this link to see if your community is already a Five Star Neighborhood. During their workshop, Steve and Annie will share how neighborhoods can market themselves to families and improve their Way to Stay ranking.

Many thanks to Live Baltimore for sponsoring the 2015 Neighborhood Institute. LiveBaltimore_logo_tagline_2013_rgb_hires

GHCC’s annual Neighborhood Institute will beheld on Saturday, April 18th, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay Street). To register for the event, follow this link. This year, the Institute will feature 36 workshops on a variety of topics relevant to community issues and City-wide opportunities. Check back here regularly for a preview of some of the workshops and presenters you can expect to see at this year’s Institute.


AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Kate McGrain

Kate2Inspired to serve Baltimore during her years at Loyola University Maryland, GHCC-Sponsored VISTA Kate McGrain is the Volunteer Coordinator at Soccer Without Borders (SWB) Baltimore. Founded in 2009, SWB uses the internationally played sport of soccer as a vehicle for positive change for refugee, asylee, and immigrant youth to feel welcomed and included in their new city.

I was born and raised in Towson, Maryland, just north of Baltimore City. However, growing up, my family and I did not often visit the city. It was not until I attended Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, that I explored and experienced the charm of the city.

Throughout my four years at Loyola I was involved with the school’s Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ). I had the opportunity to volunteer with many local schools and social service agencies in Baltimore. CCSJ helped me navigate my experiences in the city, not only exposing me to the injustices many face, but also encouraging me to explore these issues and providing me with the resources to work for a better, stronger Baltimore. The CCSJ staff, and the people with whom I served, fueled my passion to work for justice.

After graduation, I followed this passion to Anchorage, AK to serve with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. I worked at Bean’s Café, a drop-in day center for people experiencing homelessness and hunger. There I had the chance to spend time with my clients, my neighbors, learning the value of being present to others and serving their most basic needs.

I returned to Baltimore in 2010 to pursue positions with nonprofits and direct programming for youth. In October 2012 I began volunteering with Soccer Without Borders (SWB) as a Family Mentor. I was paired with a family from Guinea, and tutored their 16-year-old twin boys who were juniors in high school. I often met with SWB’s Executive Director Jill Pardini for guidance. In those conversations, I saw Jill’s passion and drive to provide immediate services for SWB families, while also Kate1working to create real change for their lives here in Baltimore.  Serendipitously, as I entered a transitional period in my career, SWB was just opening the search for a VISTA member.

As a VISTA and Volunteer Coordinator for SWB, my main project is to create an online tool to train and on-board volunteers. I also recruit and train new volunteers while providing ongoing support to over 60 volunteers who currently serve with SWB. I have the opportunity to meet with SWB families, learning more about their stories, their successes, and the challenges of moving to Baltimore. And I work with motivated, energetic and passionate staff that are devoted to making positive change for these Baltimore residents.

As I look ahead, I hope to pursue my passion for justice by studying public policy. I want to work for systemic change – whether it is in the education system, in housing and homelessness, or in newcomer resettlement. I want to bring awareness and find solutions to the glaring issues that hold individuals, especially youth, back from achieving their potential.

Join SWB for their annual fundraiser – Our World Cup: Five Years of Global Soccer in Baltimore – Thursday, May 29 at Cylburn Arboretum. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit

AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Michael Jefferson

Michael Staff Photo (2)Michael Jefferson is an AmeriCorps*VISTA member serving with the Youth Empowered Society (YES) in Baltimore, MD. Founded and run by formerly homeless youth and their allies, YES works to end homelessness in Baltimore by supporting currently and formerly homeless youth in becoming leaders in our community and by providing desperately needed direct services to homeless youth.

Everyone deserves to go home.

In the several years since I started volunteering in Baltimore, this simple statement has become a core principle for me and a source of tremendous inspiration. As an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Youth Empowered Society (YES) Drop-In Center, and as a volunteer with various nonprofits, I’ve heard hundreds of firsthand stories about the dehumanizing consequences of homelessness. Families torn apart by evictions, young women and men forced to survive on the streets after fleeing abuse at home, constant psychological oppression caused by disrespect and even hateful treatment -these experiences are tragically common for many of the folks I work with. Their stories and, more importantly, the bonds I’ve forged with my community since beginning this work has taught me that certain needs are so fundamental to a person’s life and well-being that everyone deserves them.

My journey to discover this truth started in the winter of 2009. At the time, the Great Recession was causing massive layoffs worldwide and, by chance, I started volunteering with a small grassroots group that shared food with several people who were living under the I-83 overpass in downtown Baltimore. I will always remember the night I spoke with one of the men who was living there. Sharing stories over cups of soup below the overpass, he told me that he lost his home when he was laid off during the early months of the recession. Now, with nowhere else to turn, he was forced to sleep in the dirt and the cold below the highway. The injustice of it was overwhelming and unspeakable. The visceral impact woke me up and filled me with a burning desire to become an activist in the struggle to combat homelessness and poverty.

Fortunately, the anger I felt that night is not my only source of commitment to democracy and working with my community. At the heart of it all, my work is driven by an unshakable love for people. I am endlessly inspired by the resilience and potential of the people I work with, and though painful, these stories have also allowed me to see the greatness of the human spirit. The youth who come to YES are brilliant and often full of energy and I cannot help but wonder how magnificent the world would be if circumstances permitted them to pursue their dreams. Love of people above all else has driven me to become a meaningful participant in the struggle to end poverty and its many manifestations.

I am also incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to share many beautiful aspects of my work with the broader community. The volunteers I’ve met I truly believe are some of Baltimore’s most inspiring citizens. The energy and passion they bring to the drop-in center make YES a wonderful place to be. The artistic activities that volunteers make YES a place of awesome creativity, and their educational workshops make it a place of hope and possibility. Everyone learns at YES: volunteers teach youth who in turn teach volunteers, and everyone (often without realizing it) teaches me about humankind and our infinite depth, complexities, and insatiable curiosity.

Sharing even a small piece of my story as one of many participants at YES is a pleasure. As words will forever fail to express its power, we welcome you to share a part of the action and come visit us!

Building sisterhood at the 29th St. Community Center

A sense of sisterhood is something that Sabrina Bond continually tries to instill in the elementary and middle school-aged girls who participate in her afterschool program, Finding the U From Within. Hosted every Thursday at the 29th Street Community Center, the program provides a safe space for young girls to talk, share, discuss, and support one another. Bond, who is a longtime resident of Harwood, exudes the kind of warmth and acceptance that encourages this group to talk openly about life at home, life at school, and life in general. And, what is discussed inside the space always stays inside the space. “You are your sister’s keeper,” Sabrina reminds her participants.

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Modeling, writing poetry, and producing theatrical sketches are among the many activities the group has taken part in over the past few months. During a unit on “praise poetry” last fall, each girl wrote a poem celebrating her uniqueness and presented it at the Community Center’s 1st Annual Potluck of Thanks in front of more than 150 family members, neighbors, and elected officials.

“It was an amazing experience to see the effort they put into their poems, practicing diligently before their recital, and their sense of pride they felt after they recited their poems,” says Community Center Director, Hannah Gardi.

Finding the U From Within is free and takes place every Thursday from 2:45pm – 4pm. Contact Sabrina Bond at or at 410-889-2911 if you know a girl who is interested in joining. Or, register online today!