Philanthropy Tank awarded $90,000 to eight Baltimore students at its inaugural finals event last Thursday. The new initiative aims to empower students in the Baltimore area to develop social impact programs to address community issues. Along with the funding, student finalists receive one year of mentorship from local business and nonprofit leaders. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, student groups received mentorship and training on how to best present their program ideas. The student projects address gun violence, financial literacy, human trafficking, food insecurity and more. 

One project, Reducing Waste Entrepreneurship (RWE), led by Esaiah Watson, a student at Vivian T. Thomas Medical Academy, will receive $8,500 in funding. Esaiah and his teammate Devin Mintz, a student at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, conceptualized RWE earlier this year. RWE aims to reduce waste in Baltimore by transforming illegally dumped waste into sustainable materials through 3D printing. The goal is to “reincarnate” illegally dumped waste, Esaiah explained. 

Working with Philanthropy Tank has been a “very humbling, very eye-opening experience,” Esaiah said. “Aside from the mentors and all the help we have had from them, it’s also opened our eyes to other issues in Baltimore City that we didn’t bat an eye at,” he said. 

Esaiah and his team plan to transform RWE into a for-profit business in the future. They hope to use the funding from Philanthropy Tank and mentorship from Kabir Goyal, a managing director and senior portfolio manager at Brown Capital Management, to create an actionable business plan. 

“The mentors all have their companies that they work for,” Esaiah said, “and it gives you a whole other dimension of just how deep everything goes, and how everything is interconnected.” 

All eight projects received their requested funding amounts or more and were assigned a Philanthropist Mentor to work with for the next year.

The projects and the amounts they were funded:

Explo Foods: Isaiah Dingle, a senior at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School (MERVO) received $10,500 in funding and will work with mentors Kera Ritter and Anthony Rodgers. Dingle plans to build a hydroponic garden close to Goodnow Community Center Police Athletic League (PAL) with the goal of providing fresh food options to families living in the Frankford neighborhood, a designated food desert in Baltimore City.

Hungry for Change: D’Mond Davis, a junior at Patapsco High School received $12,000 in funding and will also work with Ritter and Rodgers. Davis will help prevent minority communities from potentially developing life-threatening diseases, by partnering with Heart Kitchen at Living Classrooms to host a meal preparation delivery service that will serve low income and minority communities in Baltimore.

Life, Light and Power Podcast: Four students from Connexions Academy, junior Timothy Brewer, senior Davon Moore, sophomore Andrea Quarles and sophomore Imani Groce, received $12,000 and will work with mentor Stephanie Amponsah. The group will use their own personal experiences to serve as a positive influence for younger youth by producing the Life, Light, and Power Podcast, a forum for youth in the City to discuss difficult issues and their resolutions.

Linking for Brilliance: Seniors Diane Fakinlede of Western School for Technology and Environmental Science, Bethany Tubman of George Washington Carver School for Arts and Technology, Adeola Adekoya of Woodlawn High School and Christian Jackson of Mount St. Joseph’s High School received $12,000 and will work with mentor Traci Callendar to provide direct mentorship to 6-8th grade students at Calvin Rodwell Elementary/Middle School and help them improve their financial literacy skills.

Memory Creation: Daion Walker, a sophomore at Academy for Career and College Exploration (ACCE), Khary Trower, junior at City Neighbors High School and Quintrell Reese, a freshman at George Washington Carver High School received $15,000 and will work with mentor Callendar to use the adopt-a-lot process to build a memorial garden in the Upton neighborhood where youth can honor family members who have been lost to gun violence.

NOT FOR SALE: Ania McNair, a senior at Reginald F. Lewis High School, Marque Knox, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Lanae Williams, a sophomore at Patapsco High School, Naim Adams, a freshman at Edmondson High School and Zion Pittman, a sophomore at Western High School received $11,500 and will work with mentor Amponsah. The group will launch NOT FOR SALE, a human trafficking initiative, to raise awareness and provide education and prevention resources to the Baltimore City community.

Play Your Way: Juniors at Baltimore City College, Chambers and Harris received $10,000 and will work with mentor Kabir Goyal to build a new playground in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and improve existing neighborhood playgrounds in the community to create a safe space for youth to play.

RWE (Reducing Waste Entrepreneurship): Esaiah Watson, junior at Vivian T. Thomas Medical Academy and Devin Mintz, junior at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School (MERVO) received $8,500 in funding and will work with mentor Goyal to reduce waste in Baltimore and address illegal dumping and excess waste in Baltimore by exploring ways for it to become a sustainable energy source and made into 3D printing material.

Starting next month, students will begin working virtually with Philanthropist Mentors. They include Kera Ritter, the founder of the consulting firm The Ritter Group and former chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake; Anthony Rodgers, real estate executive; Traci Callendar, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Stephanie Amponsah, vice president of Dream BIG Foundation; and Goyal.

“This was an incredibly inspiring event to be a part of,” said Amponsah. “Baltimore City youth are extremely talented and I’m grateful that outlets like this exist that encourage students to dream up ideas and solve real-world problems.”

Philanthropy Tank Baltimore student projects are supported by Theo C. Rodgers, chairman and CEO of A & R Development, The William L. and Victorine Q. Adams Foundation, Cecil and Sheryl Flamer, the Black Philanthropy Initiative, and an anonymous donor. Philanthropy Tank Baltimore’s founding partners are Alliance Bernstein, Allegis Group, David and Beth Swirnow, Fader Innovation Center, Footlick Family Foundation, T. Rowe Price Foundation, and Whiting Turner.