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A Thread worth pulling

Sarah David

Sarah David

Ten years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a Johns Hopkins doctoral student in biomedical engineering describe a wide-ranging mentoring program that she had started with her husband. Sarah and Ryan Hemminger founded Thread in 2004. Thread engages underperforming high school students facing significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources.

Volunteer family members do whatever it takes to support the young person – providing rides to school, helping with homework, cooking dinner together or seeing a movie — really anything you would do for or with a family member.The organization seeks to foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens.

Thread’s success is clear: 87 percent of students who have been in the program for six years graduate high school and 84 percent of students who have been in Thread for five years are accepted to college. The organization relies on devoted volunteers to create this success for Baltimore’s students. Over the next few posts I will highlight two members of the legal field — in demanding lines of work — who are able to make a fantastic impact through volunteerism with this incredible organization.

So before you decide you don’t have time to be a part of someone else’s life and success, think of Kristen Scheffel. She is a medical malpractice paralegal at Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough LLP in Baltimore. After running a 5K, Scheffel started a conversation about Thread with one of their representatives. She quickly signed up.

“I now have been a part of the Thread community for almost four years,” she says. “I have occupied several roles in the organization. In my roles I have worked with other volunteers to figure out how to help not only their young people, but also their volunteer family members and themselves.” 

For Scheffel, it is not just the volunteering that has been rewarding.

“Being part of the Thread community has been an amazing experience,” she says. “Over the last four years I have learned a lot about myself and had the opportunity to form tight bonds with people I never would have met if I had not joined.  I also feel a deeper connection to Baltimore and have a better understanding of my neighbors who live in other Zip codes. I would highly encourage other legal professionals to join the Thread community. You will not regret it.”

To find out more about how to get involved with Thread, go to