A Foundation of HOPE for Area Girls

This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia has been a freelance writer in our community for over 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.

Sixth grade girls at Easton Middle School are learning to become viable contributors to the future workforce through a new program called the Economic Development and Empowerment Program. The program was established by The Foundation of HOPE, Inc., a non-profit organization established to help women and young girls on the Mid-Shore. The mission of the organization is to help young girls lead productive lives in their communities by providing cultural, social and educational development.

The program will focus on the link between economic development and education, teaching the students how to be career and college ready. They will be taught the importance of education and how preparing for college and/or a career is important.

Keasha N. Haythe, CEcD, President and Founder of The Foundation of HOPE, Inc., has been an Economic Development Professional for 15 years and most recently served as Dorchester County’s Economic Development Director. Currently, Keasha is president of Zoe Economic Development Group, LLC, a consulting firm she launched in March 2016 to provide business consulting and advisory services to individuals, businesses and local governments. While working in economic development, Keasha has heard from local businesses that their workers don’t have some of the basic skills needed to hold a job. These include human resources procedures and math skills. She comments, “We believe children are our future and we must prepare them early to be great future leaders.”

Members of the Board of Directors of The Foundation of HOPE, Inc. include Dr. Mary De Shields (left), Regina Dawson, Keasha Haythe, President and Founder; Angela Bordley, Treasurer; and Michelle Harding, Secretary.

Keasha felt that in sixth grade young girls were transitioning as young women and could learn valuable skills to prepare them for the local workforce. Partnering with Workforce Development, Keasha developed a 16-week curriculum that could be taught one day a week after school from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. The program covers topics including healthy lifestyle, self-esteem, bullying, giving back to the community, using technology and social media, workforce development, economic and community development, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and the importance of education.

Guidance counselors identify girls who could benefit from the program and Keasha is working with Talbot Mentors to identify girls who will be in the sixth grade next year and who could benefit from participation. The organization has also partnered with Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) to deliver an entrepreneurship program that will teach the students how to create a business plan. At the end of the training, the students will pitch their plan to teachers, family and friends.

Sixth grader Maretta Walker, of Easton, who started the program in January 2017, comments, “I like the lesson we are in right now, ‘The New Youth Entrepreneur Program.’ I have always wanted to start a restaurant with my mom. I am learning about good ideas and bad ideas when becoming an entrepreneur, including how to learn about the market for your product.” She adds, “I also like hanging out with friends after school.”

Sixth graders participating in The Foundation of HOPE Economic Development and Empowerment Program include Maya Hawkins-Bailey (front, left), Ja’Kyra Ware, Ashley Vargas, Lilyanna Cook (back, left) and Amorie Blake. Pictured on the floor is Maretta Walker.

Giuffrida’s Pizza provides the girls in the program with pizza, salad and drinks each week. According to Keasha, The Foundation of HOPE is accepting donations to fund two coordinators to help the girls with homework during the after-school program. The organization also wants to establish a scholarship fund for the girls once they graduate to help them with their college expenses.

To date, the organization has raised $10,000 toward its $100,000 goal. Corporate sponsorships are available. Current sponsors of the program include BB&T, the Department of Housing and Community Development, Eastern Shore Oncology, P.C., Listing Central, LLC, PNC, Shore United Bank, 1880 Bank, Eastern Shore Entrepreneur Center, Easton Utilities Commission and Queenstown Bank of Maryland.

Keasha adds, “We are also open to female business owners helping to empower the girls by showing them that there are powerful women in the community who can be positive role models and examples to follow.”

Keasha is a Certified Economic Developer, a national recognition of professional skill mastery that denotes the highest levels of professional attainment and a commitment to continued growth. She is a member of professional organizations and serves on the Board of Directors for Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and the Maryland Marketing Partnership. She also serves as President of the Maryland Economic Development Association Board of Directors. An Eastern Shore native, Keasha is a member of TriLife Christian Center in Easton where she serves on the financial team, ministerial team as an Ordained Evangelist and oversees the usher’s ministry. She is married to Marcus L. Haythe, Sr. and they have three children.

For information about The Foundation of HOPE, Inc. or the Economic Development and Empowerment Program, contact Keasha Haythe at 410-443-9936 or visit foundationofhopemaryland.org.

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