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Q&A with Burgundi Allison '97

Burgundi Allison ’97 is a program officer in the Center for Civic Sites and Community Change for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she has created and led programs for Baltimore’s most marginalized youth. She has a B.A. in political science from Morgan State University and an M.A. in nonprofit management from the Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Share a little about your career and what you've done since graduating from Tower Hill.
My first "professional" job was a middle school social studies teacher in Baltimore City. For 20 years I worked with the most marginalized young Baltimoreans—mostly black, disconnected from school and work, many experiencing homelessness and those in foster care. I was director of youth housing for the city's largest provider for individuals and families experiencing chronic housing instability, and director of a program providing education, vocation, wrap-around and mental health services to young people; my legacy project there was the addition of a co-located emergency youth shelter. I joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2018. 

Tell me about your work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
​I am a program officer in the Center for Civic Sites and Community Change. In Baltimore I oversee investments in Community Safety, which includes partnerships with local government and grassroots organizations to decrease the prevalence of gun violence and its effects on communities. Nationally, I facilitate the Community Violence Intervention Partnership, a portfolio of implementation grants for local partners standing up evidence-based violence interventions.
My work includes developing investment strategies, selecting grantees, nurturing relationships with local and national partners, providing technical assistance, and internal/external collaborations to deepen the impact and sustainability of our grantmaking. 

What interested you in a career in nonprofits?
​I grew up in a neighborhood anchored by a nonprofit (Southbridge Neighborhood House in South Wilmington). My entire family grew up there—it provided day care, summer camps, after school activities. And, my first job was working there (my mother worked there as a housing counselor). I knew well the depth of influence a nonprofit has in a community. 

What are you passionate about at work?
Philanthropy is not always close enough to the ground to fully understand the work it funds. I use my expertise as a practitioner to inform funding strategies and to introduce new partners. There are inherent barriers to smaller grassroots' and black-led organizations' access to funding, and I am most passionate about bridging the gaps.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I most enjoy being a mom! I have two brilliant daughters, 11 and 4. I am also an author (Fish Bones and Bread Crumbs: A Guided Journal) and I host a podcast (Golds Girls & God). I do consulting, working with youth serving organizations to create youth centric culture, and I am a founding partner of Imara Partnership LLC partnering with schools and organizations to develop the leadership capacity of parents to be full advocates for their children. 

What was your experience like at Tower Hill?
The Class of 97 was epic! We were the largest and loudest and the most diverse. I learned very quickly how to assert myself and how to navigate spaces completely foreign to my own. Although I seldom felt targeted or "othered," it is exhausting to be in a community but unrepresented. The lack of diversity amongst teachers, in curricula and in college choice were all reminders that I was not fully included. 

How do you feel that Tower Hill influenced your life and career?
I was well prepared for college and to brave the world. Being a girl from Southbridge having grown up at Tower Hill, I can go anywhere in the world and make myself comfortable. My career reflects that dexterity—I can bring community to philanthropy and broker relationships between them that advance the mission of the Foundation without harming the people and places we care about.