8 win grants to improve poor communities in city

November 01, 2006

The Open Society Institute announced yesterday that it has selected eight Baltimore-area residents as fellows for the next 18 months, awarding each of them grants of $48,750 to improve disadvantaged city communities.

The Baltimore Community Fellow grants are part of the work of Open Society, a private foundation created by billionaire financier George Soros.

This year's eight fellows will bring the total in the program to 86 since 1998.

This year's fellows include:

Luisa C. Bieri de Rios, a teacher and artist, who will establish a program called Por la Avenida (On the Avenue) to bring together the ethnic diversity of Highlandtown through art.

Tonya Featherston, a school principal, who will work on changing discipline techniques at three city schools - City Springs and Collington Square elementaries and Hampstead Hill Academy.

Helen Keith, a day-care provider, who will use poetry to help children ages 8 to 13 in the Washington Village and Pigtown communities.

Kenya S. Lee, a parent advocate, who will help parents engage with the city school system. She will initially work with Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Aisling McGuckin, a nurse, who will start Community Health Workers program to train leaders of refugee communities to improve access to health services.

Philip J. Merrill, a historian, who will create a storehouse of African-American cultural and historical artifacts at Garrison Middle School to assist African-American males.

Galen Sampson, an executive chef, who will use his Hampden deli and restaurant to train ex-addicts and ex-offenders in culinary skills.

Beth Wacks, a master bicycle mechanic, who will create a midtown bicycle recycling cooperative in which people will donate their time in exchange for bikes, advice and the use of tools.

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