Making a Bet on Baltimore: TFA Baltimore Alumna Launches New Social Entrepreneurial Venture to Support the Leadership and Innovation of Baltimore Students
Inspired by her Teach For America experience, Jackie Bello (Baltimore ’09) co-founded Dent Education to provide Baltimore youth opportunities to develop solutions to address systemic inequities in Baltimore and serve their communities.
April 2, 2018
What led you to start Dent Education? How did your Teach For America experience influence it?
Jackie: Coming from a family of teachers, I always knew that I was passionate about education. However, I wasn’t quite sure of what my impact would look like. I decided to start in the classroom and Teach For America brought me to Baltimore. I fell in love with the city. Once you’re here, you see all the potential and opportunity this city has to offer. My first two years in the classroom exposed me to the systemic issues of our city and country. Despite having an incredible principal and team at my school, our students were graduating high school, but weren’t career or college ready. I knew I had to figure out why.
A few years after teaching, while I was at Stanford University pursuing my MBA, I connected with Rajan Patel. While our backgrounds and experiences were different (him an engineer, me an educator), we were driven to understand and solve the various inequities we found in society. Since we both believed in education as our theory of change, we created Dent Education in order to provide marginalized youth with the opportunities to grow, learn, and become the leaders our city needs.
What success have you seen with Dent Education so far?
Jackie: Bet on Baltimore is a summer internship program we co-created with the founder of Green Street Academy, Larry Rivitz. We launched last summer with a pilot of eight students, and this summer, we’re expanding to serve forty-eight students, including students from not just Green Street Academy, but also Ben Franklin High and Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High. We’re excited to offer two different tracks, one focused on Social Innovation (solving a community problem) and another on Business Innovation (helping students launch their own business).
How is Dent Education impacting students, families, and the community?
Jackie: We really see ourselves as a youth development/leadership program. We coach students about key mindsets, such as how to see problems as opportunities, embrace failure as part of the learning journey, and feel confident in their ability to make an impact on the world. We measure our impact based on a leadership rubric which tracks growth in self-efficacy, creative confidence, resilience, empathy, curiosity, collaboration, and communication. They’re tackling real issues in Baltimore and using the skills they’re learning to find realistic solutions. One of our students, for example, is working with his community to reopen a community center. While working on this project, he also devised Youth Lead Youth, a peer to peer mentoring program.
How do you see Dent Education as part of the movement towards ending educational inequity?
Jackie: In our city and country, we not only have educational inequity – we also have innovation inequity. And yet, we have so much talent that exists right here. And if we cultivate that talent, not only will we have more wealth in Baltimore, but we’ll have more business owners of color. Through this, I’m hoping that we’ve planted a seed in our students that will help change the aspirations they have for themselves. That they see themselves as entrepreneurs who can transform their communities.