I again want to talk about opportunities at Thread, an organization that engages underperforming Baltimore 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. Thread fosters students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens. This is a wonderful organization to get involved with and offers a lot of opportunities for young lawyers and firms to really make a difference.
Meet Lauren Lake, for example. Lake just completed her clerkship with Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and recently started as an associate at Gordon Feinblatt LLC. Lauren started volunteering with Thread about 18 months ago after hearing about the organization while attending a United Way “In Their Own Words” breakfast and immediately felt intrigued by the mission: that students could succeed if they had a consistent, caring community supporting and encouraging them.
While she was nervous about meeting her student and beginning to build a relationship, she soon realized how much she enjoyed spending time with him.
“We’ve watched movies, gone bowling, visited the Maryland Science Center and the aquarium, and shared dozens of meals” says Lake. “Most memorably, I received an invitation to my student’s baby sister’s first birthday and met most of his family. They welcomed me and treated me like an extension of their family! I love that while I am expanding my own personal support system, I am also giving back to and improving the Baltimore city community by laying a stronger foundation for youth and that will benefit Baltimore city for years to come!”
Lake has met hundreds of other volunteers from all different personal and professional backgrounds who she has befriended and has learned from them in order to help coach and even figure out her own personal and professional development. Lake says she has “gained experience managing other volunteers who are also assigned to my student and also helped with problem solving when my student or his family need help exploring opportunities and resources that will help my student.” Lake is proud to be learning about how to build a stronger fabric that connects people from all over the city for the future of a better, more united Baltimore.
Regarding finding time, while Thread offers several structured times for students and volunteers to meet and spend time together, the program is also extremely flexible so students and volunteers can set up their own activities and opportunities to communicate with each other.
“Once or twice each month, I spend a few hours on the weekend with my student and I supplement those times with a handful of phone calls or texts which usually take just a few minutes,” she says.
Thread doesn’t require volunteers to spend a specific time with their students and that flexibility accommodates periods when either the student or the mentor does not have much free time. Instead, Thread focuses on the quality of the relationships between volunteers and students and that can take just a few minutes a week.
For example, when Lake was switching from her clerkship to her new associate position, her student texted me a picture of his new haircut. They exchanged a few more texts, and the next time they talked was when she sent a text wishing him a wonderful first day of high school as an upperclassman.
“In just a few minutes, I let my student know that I’m thinking about him and that I’m thinking about and supporting him!” she says.
A lot of times young attorneys ask about how to develop important career skills, and time and again I encourage volunteering. Often, when I am asked about experiences outside my chosen profession I rely on my time volunteering to show my potential and diverse skill set. Thread offers both the opportunity to make a huge difference and to develop important networks and skills. It is incredible how a friendship, mentorship and network can change a person’s life — including your own!