A Time of Transition: New Leadership for Student Support Network Board
By Laurie Taylor-Mitchell
The Student Support Network began with one school, Loch Raven High School, in late 2015. I never thought it would grow beyond one school; in fact, the original name of our nonprofit was “The Loch Raven Network.” Our first donation in 2016 was $300 from a church for shelving in the Room of Support there. Today, the Network has programs in twenty-one schools, and we have a waiting list of schools wishing to join. Hundreds of volunteers have worked in our partner schools, on drives and distributions, and on projects at our large storage space. We have a full time Executive Director and several part-time staff, and we distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food, supplies, and emergency assistance to thousands of students in need and their families each year.
Founding the Network and being involved with the wonderful people who have participated in and enabled its amazing growth has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. The best thing that could have taken place has happened: the Network has outgrown me, and I feel it’s time for new leadership that has more experience in running the larger organization that we have become and planning for the future. I’ve made the decision to make a lateral move and no longer be at the front of our flying formation as it were, and will step back from being President to take a position on the Board as of July 1, 2023.
This has not been an easy decision, but I believe the Network will benefit from it; there are ways I would like to be engaged which I do not have time for now, such as volunteering at a school, basically returning to where I began. The great news for the Network’s future is that our wonderful current Vice President, Ron McDade, will be taking over the Presidency. Ron has been with the Network for 3-1/2 years now, and his experience as a hospital administrator, leading two other non-profit Boards, and passion for our mission, make him an outstanding leader to take the Network into the future. I’ll be working very closely with him and with Rina Rhyne, our great Executive Director, who has worked so hard for the last two years in helping us adapt to this period of growth, and with our staff to ensure a smooth transition. I’m also working with the Development Committee on our October fundraiser, as we strive for more sustainable funding for the great work we do in addressing the tremendous needs that remain within BCPS.
Throughout this great work, truly a collective effort, I have stood on the shoulders of many wonderful mentors and partners who encouraged me and supported the Network, and my efforts have been multiplied indefinitely by an ever-growing group of advocates, volunteers, educators, donors, and cheerleaders. From our early days with just a few schools, through the tremendous distributions during the pandemic, to our larger organization now, this has been a true team effort. I will always be grateful for the advice, support, and encouragement of our vast community, and for their tireless commitments to our students and families. In remaining deeply engaged with the Network, I look forward to working hand-in-hand with our team as we continue to assist students so that they can receive the education they deserve!
From her many admirers: Here are just a few more photos of Laurie in action!