Timeline and Achievements

   miriam and dominique graduating 3  

Created by youth. Led by youth. Impacting youth.  Be a part of our dream…

How We Started

  • We started our project in 2001 by:
  • Writing a pledge & committing to it
  • Writing a business proposal
  • Writing a one-year operating costs budget
  • Completing a letter writing campaign that got the attention of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who wrote us into a federal bill
  • Going on site visits to find out how other youth centers got started
  • Becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (2003)with help from the University of Maryland

The Steps to our Dream House 2003-2010

  • Researched and rated homes in the neighborhood and decided on 1430 Carswell Street.
  • Canvassed the neighborhood for support.
  • Solicited the pro bono work of Laura Penza of Penza Associates for help with designing the youth center.
  • Held community meetings for residents’ input.
  • Presented to the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals with help from University of
  • Maryland Law Clinic and Villa Julie College and won!
  • Purchased the house with help from the University of Maryland Law Clinic and Fountainhead Title. 
  • Created a video with help from Wide Angle Community Media to send to Extreme
  • Makeover Home Edition and potential funders and general contractors.
  • Had two successful Demolition Days- December 2005 and September 2006 during which volunteers cleaned out the whole first floor of the house and removed aluminum siding and unwanted shrubbery.  In 2008, as part of James W. Rouse Community Service Day and Stevenson University Service Day, volunteers landscaped the youth center and the Shepherd’s clinic, built a picket fence, and created mosaic stepping stones to connect the two sites.
  • Created a partnership with Andy Powell of Towson University who assisted with our construction timeline and budget.  He worked with small teams of Youth Dreamers to teach them the phases of construction, help them hire subcontractors, and guide them in monitoring the work that is done.
  • Celebrated our official grand opening on May 8, 2010 and moved all programs into the Dream House.

Facing funding challenges, the Board of Directors made a decision to limit programming at the Dream House.  The organization partnered with a team of MBA fellows from Loyola University to create a five year strategic plan for sustainability. The organization focused on implementing this plan in four areas: structure, planning, fundraising and strategic alliances.

Youth Dreamers hosted YD Squared: Youth Dreamers Youth Development Workshops.  These workshops invited city-wide youth in middle and high school to learn about real-life skills such as resume writing, public speaking, community engagement, and more.  Workshops were designed, led and evaluated by youth.  We used these workshops as a way to engage young people in the creation of our book and accompanying video about being seen as an individual instead of a test score.  Additionally, Youth Dreamers in our summer program began writing their book I Am Not a Test Score: Lessons Learned from Dreaming,  a collaborative book about what Youth Dreamers and our adult allies learned from dreaming and building Baltimore’s only youth-run youth center—The Dream House. This nonfiction, how-to book provides a model for other youth, youth workers and non-profit organizations. It includes best practices for youth work, lessons learned (inside and outside the classroom); and examples of programming that focuses on real-world, project-based, community-building curriculum. Woven through the text is research on the negative impact of testing and inspiring stories of others standing up to the practice.

What would happen if school districts appropriated part of their contribution to the billion dollar testing industry to organizations or programs promoting youth leadership, character developmentand youth voice? 


In September of 2013, the Youth Dreamers ended programs as we knew them, due to a lack of funding and support for project-based learning. We now rent the Dream House to a sister organization – Baltimore Teacher Network (BTN), a growing network of professional teachers, researchers and community activists, with a stake in the public discussion of teaching and learning. With this rental income, Youth Dreamers are launching a scholarship program that will give youth the opportunity to set their goals as we mentor them through college with a personalized support system.

Articles and Publications

  • An article in Baltimore Magazine
  • An article published in The Voice, a magazine of the National Writing Project
  • Four articles in The Baltimore Sun- when we collected oral histories from residents on Carswell St., when we had our first Demolition Day, when we celebrated our Grand Opening and when we transitioned to our new reality
  • Features in The Examiner and The Baltimore Times
  • Publication in Groupworks (a British journal)
  • Writing two chapters in the book Writing For a Change: Boosting Literacy and Learning Through Social Action (Jossey-Bass, 2006)
  • Making Presentations and Appearances
    Appearances on Headline News and WBAL
  • Presentations to spread the word and get community support and funding, such as Towson University, Stevenson University (Villa Julie College), National Night Out, and the Baltimore City Council Showcase.
  • Presentations at various youth and service-learning conferences throughout the country


Writing Grants and Receiving Awards

  • We won the Angel Soft Angels in the Classroom Award, presented by Jane Kaczmarek from the show Malcolm in the Middle.  She was so impressed with us that she has personally donated $20,000 to our organization since we won the award.
  • We received a  proclamation by Mayor Martin O'Malley naming May 13, 2003 "Youth Dreamer Day" in Baltimore City.
  • We received a Resolution from Baltimore City Council in recognition of our "accomplishments in ensuring the establishment of a Community Youth Center " on August 11, 2003 .
  • We received many grants including $75,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development, $70,000 from Senator Barbara Mikulski, $50,000 from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and more.
  • We won the State Farm Youth Leadership for Service-Learning Excellence Award in 2007.
  • Our Director received the B-More Award in 2006 & an Open Society Institute Fellowship in 2007.
  • In 2011, we became a Promise Place, part of America's Promise Alliance, the nation's largest partnership focused on the well-being of youth.

Making Friends and Building Partnerships

  • Laura Penza of Penza + Bailey Architects, helped us design the center bro bono.
  • Andy Powell of Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse acted as our pro bono general contractor, teaching us each phase of construction and helping us hire subcontractors.
  • Kate McShane-Oeming of Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse included us in two of their service days.
  • Shepherd's Clinic we volunteered there and held service days together.
    Partnerships with local colleges such as Stevenson University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and University of Maryland 's Free Law Clinic


How have we impacted the Baltimore community?
Since 2001, Youth Dreamers have written more than 84 grants – raising over $900,000 – we have served 618 youth in Baltimore City and employed 251, helped high school and middle school students earn 17,578 community service hours towards graduation, and had the pleasure of working with 520 volunteers. All of this and much more has led to COUNTLESS success stories of youth and adult involvement.

Out of the nine middle school founders, 6 have gone onto college, 4 are currently attending graduate school, 2 have served as the Adult President of the Board of Directors, 1 was a Baltimore City schoolteacher, ALL of them, in addition to hundreds of other Youth Dreamers who have gone through our programs, graduated from high school.

A Sampling of Past Programs

Homework Club:  middle school students helped elementary students with homework and  high school students supervised.

Community Arts:  two high school students worked alongside a MICA community artist to facilitate school students in the creation of community art that beautified and engaged community. 

Summer Arts Program:  MICA graduate students and high school interns facilitated the creation of community art alongside high school Youth Dreamers who taught workshops such as video, drama, writing, etc.

The Dream Team: middle school and high school students managed the nonprofit through grantwriting, fundraising, organizing community events, designing presentations and more.

Mentoring/Tutoring:  middle school and high school students who worked in our programs were paired with college students for daily mentoring/tutoring.

Arts and Enrichment:  adult volunteers worked alongside middle/high school assistants to teach their passions to children of all ages.









   About Us

YD Housewarming Party!


The Youth Dreamers Inc.
The Dream House—1430 Carswell Street
Baltimore, MD 212