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Opening Baltimore: OSI-Baltimore's 2011 Community Fellows

2011 ISO fellows - photo  Arianne Teeple
2011 ISO fellows - photo Arianne Teeple
You can call the world your home. You can care about more than one place and learn lessons that apply globally from highly localized, community-oriented action. Open Society Institute-Baltimore operates with the goal of letting underserved communities know that they matter. As part of the Open Society Foundations started by billionaire George Soros, OSI-Baltimore lets the world know that Baltimore matters. In fact, OSI-Baltimore is the only full, city-level operation of Open Society Foundations in the United States, because our city is such fertile ground for finding needs and addressing them.
 
Today, OSI-Baltimore announces its 14th class of Community Fellows. Members of the 2011 class make their home in Baltimore and have spent time in places like Maine and Iowa. They are teachers, lawyers, dog trainers, athletes, and agriculturalists. They care about this place. They see problems and act to find solutions, and OSI-Baltimore is supporting their activities to show what can be done and where we can build from solid community bases. Here they are and what they're about, in their own words.
 
Andrew Gaddis, Charm City Clinic: “I think we want to make it extremely clear that the more valuable work that we're doing is trying to form a lasting relationship with someone, where we get to the root of their health issues and provide them with a long-term care solution. Not just taking someone's blood pressure, providing a medical service, and that's it. I think that's what sets us apart from most other established clinics and health care non-profits.”
 
Emily Datnoff, Baltimore Deportation Defense Project: “I received the fellowship to create the Baltimore Deportation Defense Program within the Maryland Office of Public Defender, in which I will advise public defenders on the immigration consequences of a conviction.  Because immigration law and criminal law treat convictions differently, an immigrant defendant has a very good chance of being deported if convicted of a crime. Many times, the individual is here legally (for instance, the individual is a legal permanent resident) and is convicted of a non-serious crime, such as shoplifting or possession. For example, a criminal defense attorney is more likely to have a person plead to a paraphernalia charge instead of a possession charge because the former comes with no jail time. When representing a legal permanent resident, however, the defense attorney should have the client plead to the possession charge and maybe serve some jail time because it preserves the person's immigration status.”
 
Jill Pardini, Soccer Without Borders:
“I played soccer in college at the University of Iowa, I am TEFL certified, and generally enjoy working with kids. In the fall of 2009 I started having a lot of conversations with people to see what, if anything, could be done to engage [refugees and immigrants], but also help them improve their lives. I had no idea I would be attempting to start-up and run a non-profit serving refugee youth in the City of Baltimore.”
 
Lara Law, Social Worker: “I think Baltimore is overflowing with young people that have extremely limited opportunities to get ahead. Hundreds of young people lack access to quality higher education and/or livable wage, dignified employment. To break the cycles of poverty, violence, incarceration and suffering in this city we must provide opportunities and ways up for all citizens, particularly for youth.” Lara will work with a group of youth leaders to establish a comprehensive drop-in resource center for homeless youth and youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system.
 
La Tasha Sharif Vanzie, EVOKU Actualized Global Leadership Experience: “EAGLE is a program developing ambitious Baltimore City metropolitan youth ages 12-21 into global leaders through educational, cultural and social experiences; professional development; entrepreneurial exploration and mentorship. EAGLE young professionals experience a journey into the culture and day-to-day lives of other world cultures culminating into an actual educational trip abroad to the country of study. What more life-impacting reward for the hard work of our scholars is there than an annual global excursion?”
 
Maya Kosok, Community Outreach Coordinator: “Baltimore has a confluence of excess vacant land, high unemployment, and a serious need for increased healthy food consumption. This project, working with urban farmers, comes at a time when Baltimore City’s Office of Sustainability is negotiating leases with city farmers, an urban farmer training program is under development, and new farms are emerging every year.”
 
Jason Reed, Curtis Bay-Brooklyn Urban Agriculture and Stewardship Program (CUSP): “The fact that entire communities are encouraged to ‘shop smart and eat healthy’ without having a grocer in their neighborhood, or the resources to guide them in learning what ‘eat healthy’ actually means, is awful. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it... or If a tomato grows in a food desert and no one picks it, what good does it do?  These next 18 months will be the start of this community hearing the tree fall in their forest, and not just growing their own tomatoes (which they've been doing) but developing ways to share their tomatoes, and the knowledge they've gained in growing them, with their neighbors.”
 
Natalie Keegan, Kids 4 K9s: “It began as an animal cruelty awareness campaign. The primary goal was to create a forum for young people to learn about ways to advocate for the ethical treatment of companion animals in their home and community. The natural consequence of this kind of initiative is the fostering of kindness, respect and empathy for not only the animals we share our lives with, but also the humans we interact with every day.”

Sam Hopkins is a freelance writer and publisher of Bmore Media.

Photos by Bmore Media Managing Photographer Arianne Teeple
 
- The 2011 OSI Fellows
- Andrew Gaddis, Charm City Clinic
- Emily Datnoff, is working on a Baltimore deportation defense project
- Jill Pardini, with Soccer Without Borders
- Lara Law, works with a homeless youth drop in center
- La Tasha Sharif Vanzie, with actualized global leadership experience
- Maya Kosok, with the agriculture alliance
- Natalie Keegan, with Kids for K9s
 
 
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