Yonghang, a Patterson High School senior whose family fled Nepal in 2008, called the program "pretty awesome."

"It helps you feel better knowing other people are trying to do the same thing as you are — trying to learn and playing soccer," the 17-year-old said.

The staff and volunteers have helped Yonghang with the process of applying for college, where he wants to major in computer science.

Daniel Sass, an English teacher at Digital Harbor High School, said he started hearing about "Coach Jill" in 2011 from some of the boys he coached on the school's soccer team, and eventually attended one of their Saturday games for Soccer Without Borders.

"The thing I love most about it is the way it teaches the boys to be engaged citizens of the world they live in," said Sass, 27, who now volunteers with the program. "Boys who a couple of years ago were still socially and emotionally immature have emerged as leaders in the classroom, leaders socially, on the soccer field, in their community."

Creating an engaged citizenry is exactly what was envisioned by Soros, whose $20 billion net worth ranks 19th on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans — one place ahead of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He created the Open Society Foundations, which have projects in more than 100 countries, to advance the principles of democracy and promote civic engagement.

"The foundation is concerned with promoting and preserving open societies, and the open society being a more comprehensive, liberal democracy," Soros said. "Open society in the United States is now endangered."

Soros, who has visited Baltimore every year since the local office opened, fully funded it for eight years. He then challenged the local leaders to raise money to support its efforts; so far, the office has brought in an additional $28 million.

Soros is known for supporting liberal causes and backing Democratic candidates. This month, he pledged $25,000 to the super PAC Ready for Hillary, in support of a potential presidential run by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andre M. Davis, an OSI-Baltimore board members since 2000, said Baltimore has significant work left to do, but with the partnerships the local group helped create and the resources marshaled, the city is in a dramatically better place.

"OSI has just been a godsend to Baltimore, and particularly the underserved and the voiceless in Baltimore," said Davis, a native of the city.

Davis said the mission for OSI-Baltimore is intertwined with that of many other institutions, including the Public Justice Center, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the police force and public school system.

Susan Goering, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland, called OSI a "game changer" for its strategic focus and longevity. To further the ACLU's mission, OSI brought together a group of charitable donors who helped the local organization expand its education reform division from one employee to four.

"Social reform, which is what we're doing, is really a product of a whole constellation of factors," Goering said. "For deep social reform, you have to be in the long haul."

Diana Morris, director of the OSI's Baltimore field office, said one change is unmistakable: In what was seen by many as a sinking city, people now have reason to be hopeful.

Morris said OSI's success relies on its partnerships with government agencies, other nonprofits and individual advocates, which together shape policy and change generations. OSI helps the process by employing a staff of experts on criminal justice, education and other subjects and by making the latest research available to leaders across the city.

"We have to combine consulting with data, with intuition," she said. "We need to be engaged, and in doing so, we try to surround ourselves with people who are at the frontiers of pushing for justice. We're not going to do any of this alone."

At Clay Pots coffeehouse and community center in southern Baltimore, forcing social change amid drug-dealing, prostitution and other illicit activity in the surrounding neighborhood is the objective, said Dwayne Hess, who helped found the largely volunteer-run venue. The community center was opened in 2005 and received an OSI fellowship in 2009.

"The community fellowship opened doors in a way we weren't able to before," Hess, 44, said. "Now, there's something happening seven days a week, and it's interesting to watch people taking ownership of the place."

Since the OSI funding, Clay Pots has offered adult education, such as GED classes and computer lessons, and neighborhood activities, said Hess, a former city schools teacher. The Mount Clare resident aims to build a sense of camaraderie through regular coffeehouse sessions where as many as 100 people come each week for free beverages and a space to congregate.