Promise Heights Team

Promise Heights TeamKeeping Their Promise

On the Front Lines:
UMB Champions of Excellence
Promise Heights Team
School of Social Work

How does a program focused primarily on aiding children and families in West Baltimore conduct its human services work during a pandemic, when in-person interactions are no longer the norm? With creativity, resourcefulness, perseverance, and planning, say the leaders of Promise Heights, which operates out of the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW).

Those attributes are emblematic of Promise Heights’ service to the community, and they proved effective as most of its services were moved to online platforms during the COVID-19 crisis, with the response and results earning the program a UMB Champions of Excellence Award.

“We had to switch to virtual content just like everybody else, and we had to pivot very quickly,” said Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, assistant dean and Promise Heights executive director. “What I’m so excited about in terms of my staff is that they began to use some of their inner talents and inner strengths. They pulled it out of themselves.” 

Established in 2009 to improve educational outcomes for youth and ensure that families are healthy and successful in West Baltimore’s Upton/Druid Heights community, Promise Heights partners with faith-based, government, and nonprofit organizations. Representatives of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) six professional schools base their work in the neighborhood’s five public schools to reach students, families, and residents as they move through a pipeline of services and programs.

The Champions Award is even more special because staff members have had to overcome so many challenges from COVID-19, said Promise Heights assistant director Rachel Donegan, JD. “We work in a human service capacity, and it is challenging to be of human service when you can’t be in contact with humans,” she said.

Promise Heights staff had to quickly think of ways to creatively support Upton/Druid Heights. For example, over the summer, funds that normally pay for field trips to Pearlstone Retreat Center and Outdoor Education Campus in Reisterstown were used to partner with the farm to provide eight weeks of food delivery to Promise Heights families. Staffers delivered the meals, which allowed for brief in-person interactions with community members. 

Promise Heights applied for COVID-19 assistance from the Baltimore-based nonprofit Fund for Educational Excellence and received $15,000. Those funds were used to pay for Black-owned West Baltimore food vendors to supply meals to Promise Heights partner organizations. Promise Heights also purchased memberships from a Black-owned West Baltimore CSA (community-supported agriculture) so families could have a consistent food source over the winter.

Another Promise Heights initiative, B’more for Healthy Babies, transitioned from its traditional door-to-door visits offering prenatal and postnatal services to hosting virtual forums on breastfeeding, parenting, and stress reduction that at times attract up to 80 community members. Other programming migrated to Facebook and YouTube.

All of this ingenuity and resiliency compelled Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, professor and former dean of UMSSW, to nominate Promise Heights for the UMB award, comparing its staff to a world-class orchestra.

“Each player lends years of devotion, diligent practice, and talent so that their collective skill speaks for itself,” Barth said. “The pandemic raised the ante, and the adept and quickly tailored responses to this public health crisis clarify why Promise Heights earns high marks and deserves to be celebrated.”

— Mary Therese Phelan 


Bronwyn Mayden

Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, Executive Director/SSW

Rachel Donegan

Rachel Donegan, JD, Assistant Director/SSW

Christian Edge

Christian Edge, MPA, MSEd, Director of Strategic Partnerships/SSW

Sarah Wise

Christian Edge, MPA, MSEd, Director of Strategic Partnerships/SSW

Shazia Hasimii

Shazia Hashmi, Lead Research Analyst/SSW

Nick Peters

Nick Peters, CITS Lead Web Developer/UMB

Lisa Lewenz

Lisa Lewenz, Communication Specialist/SSW

Dan Schertle

Daniel Schertle, Accountant/SSW

Jenny Hasselbusch

Jennifer Hasselbusch, Program Management Specialist/SSW

Jilian Krueger, MSW, School & Community Outreach Coordinator/EMES

Jilian Krueger, MSW, School & Community Outreach Coordinator/EMES

Stacey Stephens

Stacey Stephens, LCSW-C, Clinical Instructor, Director, B'more for Healthy Babies

Angelise Shelby

Angelise Shelby, LMS, Social Worker, B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Blair Davis

Blair Davis, LMSW, Social Worker, B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Shasha Satchell

Shasha Satchell, CLC, Community Health Outreach Worker, CLC B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Celestine Tolliver

Celestine Tolliver, Community Health Outreach Worker, CLC B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Giselle Joseph

Giselle Joseph, CLC, Community Health Outreach Worker, CLC B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Melden Dickens

Meldon Dickens, Community Health Outreach Worker, CLC B'more for Healthy Babies/Nimrod

Clare Donofrio

Clare Donofrio, MPH, LMSW, Early Childhood MHC/EMES Judy Ctr

Russell Elmore

Russell Elmore, LMSW, Community School Director/EMES

Shawnta Cummings

Shawnta Cummings, Parent Leader/EM

Renee Prioleau

Renee Prioleau, Parent Leader/EM

Linda Callahan

Linda Callahan, LMSW, Early Childhood MHC/FLT

Nikea Taylor

Nikea Taylor, Early Childhood Assistant/FLT

Meaghan Tine

Meaghan Tine, LMSW, Community School Director/FLT

Latoria Mackey

Latoria Mackey, MSW, Assist. Community School Director/FLT

Cynthia Banks

Cynthia Banks, Parent Leader/FLT

Stormi Lynn

Stormi Lynn, Parent Leader/FLT

Dominique Robinson

Dominique Robinson, Parent Leader/FLT

Catherine Anthony

Catherine Anthony, LMSW, Community School Director/HSCT

Alex Gomez

Alex Gomez, PromiseCorps Site Supervisor/HSCT

Mariel Pfister

Mariel Pfister, LCSW-C, Community School Director/BTW

Allyson Tarbox

Allyson Tarbox, MSW, Assistant Community School Director/BTW

Alishia Carter

Alisha Carter, Parent Leader/BTW

Brandi Thomas

Brandie Thomas-Cunningham, College & Career Coordinator/RA

Hallie Atwater

Hallie Atwater, LCSW-C, Community School Director/RA

Cureema Uzzel

Cureema Uzzell, MSW, Assist. Community School Director/RA

April Dodd

April Dodd, Parent Leader/RA

Vania Lscandari

Vania Iscandari, LMSW, Family Prosperity Coordinator/Nimrod

Samirah Abdul-Fattah

Samirah Abdul-Fattah, CBCR Program Coordinator

Derris Hawkins

Derris Hawkins-Smith, College & Career Coordinator/RA

Roslyn Jones

Roslyn Jones, Program Management Specialist

Yvette McCleod

Yvette McLeod, Early Childhood Assistant/EMES Judy Ctr