Meredith Good-Cohn '11
James Center Service and Leadership Fellow
In 2010-11, Meredith Good-Cohn ’11, was selected as the inaugural James Center Service and Leadership Fellow. She helped to create this new role which combines her passion for community service and her desire to help others become more effective and efficient leaders and advocates.
The Baltimore Sun profiled Meredith on her extensive community service. Read the article here.
As the James Center Fellow, she has created a leadership training program for Garrison Forest student club leaders and is incorporating leadership and service components into the School’s academic curriculum based on the quantitative and qualitative data that she collects. Elected in fall 2010 as the President of Baltimore’s Student Congress for Service (BSCS), a community service coalition comprised of student representatives from 15 different independent, public, and parochial high schools in the Baltimore region, Meredith is putting all that she preaches into practice.
Here she talks with Whitney "Whitty" Ransome, Director of the James Center, about service, advocacy, and cultivating leaders.
Q: What are you learning about yourself as a person and leader as the James Center Fellow?
A: Through the James Center Fellowship and my work as the President of the Baltimore Student Congress for Service, I have learned lessons at a young age that will benefit me for the rest of my life. I find it most successful to establish a personal relationship with each person I work with over the phone or in person. With technology, it is tempting to communicate solely through email, but verbal communication is much more personal and powerful. Part of being a leader, particularly a service leader, is knowing how to establish a relationship with the people you are or will be working with to insure success on every project. This year, I have worked with the Executive Director of Komen Maryland; the Director of the Emergency Services Department, American Red Cross of Central Maryland; the Bureau Chief for Parks for Baltimore City; and the Director of Parks and Recreation for Baltimore City. I also was given a rare opportunity to attend the Ted-X Women’s Conference via GFS’s live broadcast feed from the conference.
Doing service makes all the time spent making phone calls and attending meetings worthwhile. As the first-time recipient of the James Center Service and Leadership Fellowship, I hope to influence each student who hears my story to be inspired to go out in the world and make an impact in their own way.
Q: How has GFS inspired you to serve in this role?
A: I was never exposed to service opportunities until I attended Garrison Forest in the 9th grade. GFS is one of the only schools that does not require service hours—something that is truly admirable about the School in itself. All the student body needs are the opportunities to get involved, which is what I hope I have provided for them. Even if many students have not participated in hands-on projects, they have developed the leadership and service knowledge to start a club or conduct a meeting along with advocating for a cause they feel strongly about. My hope is to incorporate this type of learning into the curriculum and create a solid foundation for the James Center Service and Leadership Fellow.
- Meredith speaks on a James Center panel. Right-Director of the James Center Whitty Ransome.
Q: Is this experience having any impact on what you will study in college and what you might do for a career?
A: I want to personally give back to the community and inspire others to get involved. Using the opportunities that the James Center fellowship has opened up for me, I will take my knowledge and educate the people about issues facing society. One person can change the world. All it takes is one person to take the initiative and spread their passion to the greater community. My philosophy is that if people are introduced to societal issues at a younger age, they will be better prepared to address these issues by the time they enter college, thus making more of an impact earlier. Service not only benefits society but also allows for a large amount of self discovery. By participating in service, I have changed as a person. I have now been exposed to the skills needed to analyze societal issues and create solutions. Through civic engagement, I have discovered my passion for helping people. No matter what career I pursue after my college and graduate school, I will be giving back to my community in one way or another.
Q: Hands-on learning is at the heart of the James Center. Is the hands-on aspect of what you are doing with BCBS and at GFS making a difference in what you are doing and gaining from this experience?
A: Advocacy and awareness are extremely important, but you cannot have these without hands-on action. Together this makes for successful leadership. Two examples:
- In fall 2010, GFS was the leading participant in the first-ever BSCS “Pink Goes Green Recycling Initiative” at the 2010 Maryland Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Our project involved over 100 planning hours and 50 teens to coordinate recycling for 40,000 race participants. At the end of seven hours on Race Day, we collected 2.18 tons of paper and plastic water bottles and transported recycling bins to recycling trucks.
By initiating recycling at large events such as The Race for the Cure, I hope that we set a precedent for other events to follow. I believe that if once one event offers recycling, others will do the same to stay competitive and meet the level of other organizations. Our project directly impacted approximately 40,000 people, but in the long run, it affected an infinite amount. I would like to think that our small group had a large impact on society. I hope to see more events offer recycling now that Komen has proved it possible.
- Meredith at the 2008 Thanks and Giving dinner at the Patterson Park Rec Center in Baltimore.
- This spring , I am heading the remodeling of a neighborhood pool in Baltimore City and working with the Baltimore City Department of Parks and Recreation. GFS and other Baltimore area students will be mulching, cleaning, painting a mural, and fundraising to beautify a run-down pool in the inner city. Our goal is to raise the overall morale of the surrounding neighborhood. The second project I am organizing is to help install bleachers at the Druid Hill Park basket ball courts for the park's summer basketball program, which was created to prevent children from exposure to street violence. These basketball courts are extremely popular but other then two small benches nearby, there is nowhere for the teams or their fans to sit. BSBC and GFS are working together on this project.