When she was in seventh grade, Ania McNair saw a presentation by an FBI Victims Specialist that stuck with her. The Victims Specialist relayed stories of human trafficking — many involving girls Ania’s age — and Ania immediately knew she wanted to do something about it.
Ania, now in twelfth grade at Reginald Lewis High School, has been involved with initiatives to combat human trafficking in Baltimore. According to the Victims Services Committee of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, major interstates through the state and its position between several East Coast cities make it a hot spot for human trafficking. The task force’s latest data found 396 survivors of human trafficking — 124 of whom were trafficked as children — in Maryland in 2014.
Recently, while working with Baltimore nonprofit HeartSmiles, Ania gave a presentation on human trafficking entitled “Not for Sale.” When she saw an opportunity to apply for a grant to put her solutions to action from the newly launched Philanthropy Tank Baltimore, Ania applied.
Philanthropy Tank, which originated in Palm Beach County and recently launched a program in Baltimore, seeks to empower students to actualize their solutions to community problems through funding and mentorship. Students can apply to receive up to $15,000 in funding and a year of mentorship from Philanthropist Mentors.
Philanthropy Tank has five Philanthropist Mentors who come from the Baltimore business, philanthropy and nonprofit worlds. Kera Ritter, founder of the consulting firm The Ritter Group, and Anthony Rodgers, a real estate development executive with over 20 years of experience, will work as a mentorship team. Other mentors include Traci Callendar, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Stephanie Amponsah, vice president of Dream BIG Foundation, and Kabir Goyal, a managing director and senior portfolio manager at Brown Capital Management.
All of the mentors bring knowledge and skills from years of experience. Callender, for one, came to Philanthropy Tank with 15 years of nonprofit experience and she says the organization is unique in its ability to connect students with companies and individuals they would not ordinarily have access to.
“Not only are you developing their skills as changemakers,” Callender said, “but simultaneously you’re having them partner with adults, and create an authentic youth-adult partnership.”
On November 19, nine student finalists will pitch their projects to Philanthropist Mentors at a virtual event. Philanthropist Mentors will decide which projects they want to fund, how much they want to fund, and which projects they want to mentor. Leading up to the event, student finalists will receive mentorship and guidance on how to prepare their presentations.
A group of local philanthropist investors led by Theo C. Rodgers, chairman and chief executive officer of A&R Development, will fund the student projects.
“A bright future for Baltimore rests with the potential to tap into the creative minds and the innovative solutions that students bring to address social issues,” said Rodgers in a statement. “I look forward to working with Philanthropy Tank to help develop a culture of giving among young people in Baltimore.”
As one of the nine student finalists, Ania will pitch her concept, Not for Sale, an initiative to raise awareness on human trafficking in Baltimore City. With a focus on community outreach, Ania will prepare virtual presentations to present at schools. Presenters will tell personal stories and educate individuals on how to spot and report human trafficking.
In creating Not for Sale, McNair hopes to provide a support system for victims of human trafficking in Baltimore City. “I wanted to let them know, ‘you’re not alone, you are not for sale, your story doesn’t define you,’” Ania said.
Another student finalist, Chassity Soto, a twelfth-grade student at Coppin Academy High School, is leading a team for the project We Are All Human. Chassity aims to organize a resource fair to provide hygiene stations and care packages for homeless men and women in Baltimore every two months. We Are All Human will also partner with Baltimore businesses and organizations to assist with wellness checkups, mental health referrals, applications for benefits, and jobs.
Chassity and her team decided to focus on the issue of homelessness after witnessing the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on homeless individuals in Baltimore. Prior to the pandemic, The Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services estimated that approximately 2,500 men, women, and children are homeless in Baltimore on any given night.
Working with Philanthropy Tank mentors has been an incredibly positive experience, Chassity explained. “Philanthropy Tank has helped us know what is really important to us, the message we want to get out there, and how we want to represent ourselves,” she said.
Philanthropy Tank’s executive director, Joann Levy, hopes to spread awareness of Philanthropy Tank to all Baltimore students. “We want to value them,” Levy said, “to show them that they have tremendous potential.”
Philanthropy Tank’s model is distinct in giving students agency to develop their own ideas. “When you’re a kid you have grown-ups telling you what to do all the time, right? Don’t do this, don’t do that,” Levy said, “But what we’re doing is flipping that paradigm on its head. We’re saying students know best, you run your project, and we the grown-ups, we’re going to support you.”
Students will present the following project ideas to Philanthropy Tank on November 19.
- Not for Sale
NOT FOR SALE is a human trafficking initiative to raise awareness and provide education and prevention resources to the Baltimore City community.
- Ania McNair 12th grade Reginald F. Lewis HS
- Marque Knox 10th grade Cristo Rey
- Lanae Williams 10th grade Patapsco HS
- Zion Pittman 10th grade Western High School
Through RWE (Reducing Waste Entrepreneurship), Watson and Mintz strive to reduce waste in Baltimore and address illegal dumping and the excess waste being used in Baltimore by exploring ways for it to become a sustainable energy source and made into 3D printing material.
- Esaiah Watson – 11th grade Vivian T. Thomas Medical Academy
- Devin Mintz – 11th grade Merganthalar Voc Tech (MERVO)
- Dayvon Cummings, pursuing his GED.
- We Are All Human
To organize a resource fair for homeless individuals every two months providing hygiene stations and care packages. The fair will partner with organizations and businesses to assist with jobs, mental health referrals, wellness checkups, and applications for benefits.
- Chassity Soto – 12th grade – Coppin Academy HS
- Tymil Brooks – 12th grade Baltimore Poly Tech
- De’Montez Walton – 9th grade Balt. Poly Tech
- Hungry for Change
Davis wants to 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.
- D’Mond Davis – 11th grade – Patapsco HS
- Explo Foods
Dingle has 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.
- Isaiah Dingle – 12th grade Merganthalar Voc Tech (MERVO)
- Play Your Way
The Play Your Way Initiative hopes to build a new playground in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and improve existing neighborhood playgrounds in the community.
- Tayla Chambers – 11th grade Baltimore City College HS
- Jayda Harris – 11th grade Baltimore City College HS
- Memory Creation
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.
- Khary Strower – 11th grade – Baltimore City Neighbors High School
- Daion Walker – 10th grade – ACCE High School
- Quintrell Reese – 9th grade – George Washington Carver
- Life, Light, and Power Podcast
The group like to 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.
- Timothy Brewer – 11th grade Connexions Academy
- Davon Moore -12th grade Connexions Academy
- Andrea Quarles – 10th grade
- Imani Groce – 10th grade
- Linking for Brilliance
Work with 6-8th grade students at Calvin Rodwell Elementary/Middle School in order to provide direct mentorship to students and help them improve their financial literacy skills.
- Diane Fakinlede – 12th grade – Western School for Technology and Environmental Science
- Bethany Tubman – 12th grade – George Washington Carver for Arts and Technology
- Adeola Adekoya – 12th grade – Woodlawn High School
- Christian Jackson – 12th grade – Mount St. Joseph’s HS