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Exploring Life & Business with Michael Rosenband of Requity Foundation Inc.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Rosenband.

Hi Michael, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
After receiving my MBA from Northwestern University, I took a coveted job in private equity in NYC. While this was a gainful, fast-paced, and high-pressure job, in the long run, it personally left me unfulfilled. When the economic crisis hit in 2008, I decided it was the perfect time for introspection and a career pivot. Taking a long-term view of the world around me and looking to see where I could make the most impactful and substantive difference led me to some of my first loves: sports, coaching and mentoring. As I reflected on what allowed me to be successful to date and how I could transfer that to a more fulfilling path, I realized that I had been the recipient of good fortune and upbringing due to my family’s economic background and personal involvement in my education, growth and athletic endeavors (by contrast my public high school had a 50% graduation rate, common for like rust-belt, racially diverse and economically constrained high schools). I concluded that without these nurturing factors, I would not have been afforded specific opportunities or the abilities to take advantage of them. Along the same time, I became keenly aware of the inequities in vocational education (and the attendant limitations on career potential) when I was a volunteer football coach in NYC and later at Carver. My years of coaching have taught me the benefits of leadership, mentorship, dedication, and flexibility and allowed me to transform Carver’s baseball program culture into a winning one.

I am a driven and dedicated person who works hard to attain my goals, but I am also aware of the patience and perseverance required to affect real, positive, and long-lasting change. Additionally, my past work at my family’s manufacturing business, Morgan Marshall, informed my collaboration and communication skills and taught me a valuable lesson on how to work with others successfully (whether customers or colleagues). This ability to work well amongst all types of people has served me well in my interaction with residents, students, neighborhood associations, leaders, and local and state elected officials. My decision to move to Baltimore was guided by the fact that I could focus on a smaller city where my ultimate goal, making vocational education relevant and effective, could be scaled and effectuated. Thirteen years later, Baltimore has become the perfect fit to launch the 501(c) (3) non-profit Requity Foundation Inc. and its pilot initiative, The Carver House: the development and creation of a vocational educational curriculum that combines in-classroom teaching with real “hands-on” experience, inspiring students to greater academic achievement and career success.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not! While I knew path felt right it was certainly not without it’s challenges. In our work we often talk about community engagement. But after stumbling several times and upsetting people, I had to really learn and understand what authentic community engagement is. I needed to learn, and I’m still learning, how to humbly engage and effectively contribute alongside people who have been working on solving challenges for decades. Another challenge was connecting the right kind of funding and support that would provide the investment and long term view for helping to bring about real systemic change. I have come to terms with the notion that the change I want to see may not all happen in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try like heck and always working smarter to achieve the vision!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
In 2012, Carver Vocational-Technical High School (Carver), Maryland’s oldest historically Black trade school, assembled a varsity baseball team that collectively addressed inherent challenges:

1.No field existed on the school’s campus.
2.The nearest field was two miles away with no transportation provided.
3.The budget was exhausted procuring two new bats with stricter safety certifications.
4.Players lacked playing experience and access to essential equipment.

With a caring new coach bringing a business background and outside funding, engaged the students in curated work-based learning opportunities to solve the challenges. While the experience successes are documented in a May 2013 Baltimore Sun article (https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/high-school/bs-sp-carver-baseball-coach-20130511-story.html), it was the self-actualization of the students that led to the founding of Requity. Senior captain Sterling Hardy wondered if we could learn how to address recreational inequity and why can’t we tackle the barriers preventing employment. Sterling noted that dilapidating vacant houses sat directly across from school and suggested that Carver trade students could work on these houses and gain the experiences and skills the marketplace said were lacking. Indeed, vocational students from Baltimore City Public Schools can expect to earn $13,000 six years after graduating. Thus, the idea for an organization to break down these barriers was born.

The Requity Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 2020 to transform vocational education through impactful work-based learning projects. The projects are designed to build community wealth and fight climate change – while training, equipping, and experiencing young talent for meaningful jobs and careers.

What sets us apart is the authentic engagement with the people we serve and the organizations we work with. Our initiatives have a multiplier effect with a growth organization mindset and intentional representation. For example, neighborhood discussions have led to job opportunities.

I’m proud of the name that we created. The organization’s name, Requity, was created by merging the words “Racial” and “Equity.” A commitment to advancing racial Equity is foundational to Requity and drives our work. The entity itself was the brainchild of a Carver student.

Requity is piloting the Carver House project to renovate a vacant rowhouse with trade students into an affordable net-zero home. Located directly across the street from the historic Carver Vo-Tech trade school, the Carver House enables Requity to align project learnings with vocation curriculums. By applying classroom lessons to original work, carpentry, construction design, electrical, masonry, and business, students are trained, equipped, and experienced for construction jobs and career pathways. The purpose of the pilot is to develop and test net-zero construction curriculums and their effectiveness in workforce placement while also creating a framework that can be replicated and scaled. The project specifics are purposeful and intended to intersect education with climate action and home ownership.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Sterling Hardy! The project and potential is the brainchild of Sterling Hardy, a 2012 Carver Vo-Tech graduate. The welcoming Carver school and the local community. An all-important question in the city of Baltimore, more so than anywhere else I’ve lived, is “where did you go to (high) school.” As a Hoosier originally from Chicago, being able to call Carver my school is invaluable. The athletic director, Wayne Jackson, hired me as the baseball coach without prior baseball coaching experience. Without the opportunity, it is hard to imagine building the kind of trust with people that we have, enabling us to do even more impactful work.

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