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About the Organization

PARTNER SITES:  In 2004, the Dunbar flagship site was founded and began matching volunteers from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) East Baltimore campus with students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. In 2010, the ACCE site was founded and began matching volunteers from the JHU Homewood campus with students from the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE).  Most recently, in 2014 Thread founded a third site at Frederick Douglass High School.

Thread believes – and urges others to believe – that empathetic and enduring relationships are our society’s most essential form of wealth. This conviction stems from the understanding that at some point in each of our lives we have all felt alone. For some, this sense of isolation is momentary; for others, it lasts a lifetime. However long it lasts, it leaves unfulfilled our very human need to connect with and matter to others. We experience the “poverty of isolation.”

Thread believes that, by cultivating relationships that transcend racial and socioeconomic barriers – and by creatively building unconventional families and communities not defined by DNA and addresses – we can overcome the poverty of isolation and, in its place, establish a wealth of human connection permanently linked by unconditional love and support. Thread understands that children growing up in concentrated poverty need more than just improved financial resources or better classrooms; they need the same unassailable support and deep interpersonal bonds that we all need. Thread builds these bonds for students, volunteers and collaborators.

Involvement Opportunities

Thread engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. We foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens.

Thread’s approach, from the students we engage to the depth, breadth, and duration of the support we provide, is unprecedented.  By creating a new social fabric, where relationships are woven strong among students, volunteers and collaborators, Thread fundamentally alters how we define “family” and cultivates communities that transcend barriers, creating a future where everyone thrives.

Once enrolled, each students is matched with a Thread Family, the basic building block of the organization.  A Thread Family is comprised of one student and a group of up to five university-and community-based volunteers willing to help their student realize his or her potential.

Unlike traditional school-based tutoring programs, Thread Families extend support beyond the school day and by creating customized and comprehensive solutions to address the root causes of academic and social challenges. The Thread Family works to build a deep foundation of trust with their student and with each other, modeling consistency, communication, and persistence. Thread Family members are active agents in their student’s life, often scheduling daily activities that might include packing lunches, tutoring, a social activity like going out for ice cream or a baseball game, or completing college applications.  Each Family has a volunteer Head of Family (HOF), who ensures that their student’s needs are met. 

Additional Information

Thread is changing the fabric of Baltimore – and the future. Just this year, 255 students and alumni, 800+ volunteers and 175+ collaborators have spent over 30,000 hours together, building relationships that transcend barriers and enrich the lives of everyone involved. Thread students have performed thousands of hours of community service, primarily in Baltimore City, but also globally, joining our volunteers and collaborators as they become the next generation of agents of change. The relationships that Thread has woven have given our students an even greater opportunity to defy the odds:

92% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have graduated high school

90% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have been accepted to college

80% of student alumni have completed a 4 or 2 year degree or certificate program

In addition, by weaving together students, university- and community- based volunteers, and collaborators into a new social fabric – one that transcends barriers and works to end disconnectedness – Thread is working to interrupt the cycle of poverty, crime, and lack of education and improve the odds for all students.

The Thread website is a great place to start learning more about who we are/what we do. Here is some additional information:


My dreams of becoming a scientist brought me from Iran to the United States and to [Johns Hopkins] as a PhD student. However, the barriers of language, culture, and presumptions made me feel lonely, marginalized and insignificant in my new community. It seemed to me that all my dreams were going to wither. Right when I was going through this gloomy struggle I joined Thread, and met many dreamers. One of them was a high school student, stuck in the cycle of failure, poverty, and drugs. [Together], we learned not to lose hope and how to keep on dreaming for a brighter future.
– Thread Volunteer

My experience with Thread has been a revelation of endless opportunity that has helped me realize my own potential. Thread brings people together that normally wouldn’t know one another and uses the different perspectives, experiences and knowledge to learn from each other and cultivate better and more well rounded individuals
– Thread Student Alumnus

Thread allows for leaders across distinct organizations to link together and gain perspective from one another. The opportunities that Thread provides to lead other volunteers and develop intricate partnerships within the Baltimore community are unparalleled. Volunteering for Thread has led to an incredible career opportunity for me. … I am grateful for the wonderful people I have met within our organization and am excited about staying in Baltimore for the term and driving change.
– Thread Volunteer

The reason that I’m so inspired by Thread is that I know what it feels like to experience a sense of loss that is so profound that you feel like you’re all alone. But I also know what it feels like to have a sense of a family that’s rebuilt that’s so strong that your heart is completely overwhelmed with joy. People always talk about people being “Products of their environments” And I remember going to visit [the other] Wes…and asking him “Do you think that we’re products of our environments?” And he looked back at me and he said “I think we’re products of our expectations.” And I thought to myself “he is absolutely right.” The beauty of Thread and the beauty of this program and the beauty of you is that you define that. And the thing that I ask of you is that you define that, not just for yourselves, but you define that for others.
– Wes Moore, Thread Collaborator