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Follow the Data Podcast: Shaping the Future of Youth in Baltimore, MD

Navigating a pandemic, our country’s reckoning with racial injustice, and a divisive presidential election is difficult – but it can be especially difficult for teenagers, whose school communities and peer support systems have been turned upside down this year. In fact, a CDC study conducted earlier this summer suggests that younger adults have experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes as a result of the pandemic.

Engaging teenagers during tumultuous times is nothing new to Joni Holifield. She created HeartSmiles in 2015, when riots broke out in her native Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. Today, the program provides enrichment and leadership development opportunities for youth. Joni also runs the Youth Advisory Board, which provides guidance to the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, HeartSmiles convened youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in East Baltimore for personal development programming, leadership training, and college and career mentorship in collaboration with the school’s Center for Adolescent Health. HeartSmiles aims to inspire youth to be leaders in their communities and to demonstrate leadership in real time through activities that build character.

Since the pandemic hit, HeartSmiles has shifted its programming online – and has started connecting with youth beyond Baltimore, too.

Joni and David Carberry, the CEO of Enradius, a Baltimore-based digital advertising company and an alum of the Bloomberg Baltimore-Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, join this episode of the podcast. David participated in HeartSmiles’ partnership program, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and connects students with mentors and work opportunities at the Bloomberg Baltimore-Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, and mentored Kamri Moses – a student and entrepreneur in her own right.

Joni, David and Kamri sit down to discuss how HeartSmiles has created a digital space for youth to connect during the pandemic, how building community relationships has changed during the coronavirus crisis, and why it’s important for businesses to collaborate with youth and community-based programs as an investment in the future.

To learn more about Heartsmiles’ work, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can follow along with Kam’s smoothie business on Instagram here.

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

More episodes from our coronavirus series include: