Everyone deserves a family. Every person, and especially every kid, deserves to have strong, fulfilling relationships that propel them over and beyond life’s most challenging obstacles.

This simple truth is at the heart of the mission guiding Thread, an organization in Baltimore dedicated to cultivating relationships across traditional racial, social, and socioeconomic boundaries. By pairing volunteer mentors with high school students who are facing significant life barriers like a deceased or absent parent, Thread demonstrates the value of human connection in transcending the isolation of poverty and insecurity.

“What more can a child ask for in this position than people to come into his life, believe in him more than anybody else has, treat him more like family than his own family does, and never give up on him?” says Eddie Blackstone, a Thread alum. 

Eddie’s mentor Rose introduces him to friends as her little brother, because that’s what he has become. Thread’s model is unique in this way—instead of financial support, more school supplies, or better textbooks, students receive a multi-person “family” fully committed to providing emotional and developmental support. When a student feels unmotivated to show up for school, there’s a family member to give them a ride. When a student doesn’t have easy access to healthy, balanced meals, there’s a family member to pack a lunch. When a student develops a passion for a hobby, there’s a family member to recommend local classes and resources to explore.

But it’s important to note that Thread isn’t just about the kids; it’s about every side of the equation. Mentors and collaborators likewise experience the powerful effects of relationship-building. This singular emphasis on building foundational relationships between mentors and students drives real, interdependent, and lasting relationships—just like a family.