‘Civil rights issues of the day’: New head of Baltimore Corps comes home to lead fight for economic justice

Caryn York, the new president and CEO of Baltimore Corps, outside her alma mater Baltimore City College High School.

Caryn York is returning home to lead Baltimore Corps, a social justice and innovation hub, as its next president and CEO.

Co-founded by now-Gov. Wes Moore and Fagan Harris, the organization is nearing its 10th anniversary of placing adults and youth in full-time jobs.


York, a Baltimore native, succeeds Harris, who became chief of staff to Gov. Wes Moore earlier this year.

York’s prior work as president and CEO of the Women’s Prison Association prepared her for this role. In New York City, the 38-year-old led the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to advancing housing, education and employment for women who have been incarcerated.


“I’m going home, the home that bred me, raised me, all the things experiential,” York said. “I’m going home to do all of those big things that I thought I couldn’t do there. And yet here’s the opportunity to really make them happen.”

A 2002 graduate of Baltimore City College High School, York grew up in West Baltimore’s Park Heights. After graduating from Washington College in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, she dove into the world of policy.

She spent 10 years at the Job Opportunities Task Force rising from a junior-level policy position to leading the Baltimore-based organization as CEO in August 2017. York was the first Black woman CEO of both the Women’s Prison Association and the JOTF.

York left Baltimore in 2021 for New York.

“I felt that I was operating in a small pond, and that if I really wanted to enact big change in Baltimore City, then maybe I need to step outside of Baltimore City to do big things and then bring it back to Baltimore City. But the crazy thing was that, I get to New York, and I realized that there actually was more opportunity to enact big change in Baltimore City rather than New York City,” York said.

The fight for economic justice is the “civil rights issue of the day” York says.

“You cannot have strong safe communities without strong working, economically stable and secure communities. When we look at communities in Baltimore City, you find that the Blackest communities are the ones who tend to have the least amount of investment … But a large majority of the individuals in that community have no real access to economic opportunities and real good jobs with meaningful wages,” York said.

At Baltimore Corps, she hopes to address these issues by ensuring jobs are readily available that allow people to support their families.


Alicia Wilson, managing director and global head of philanthropy for the North America region for JP Morgan, Chase and Company, described York as a leader with the potential to take Baltimore Corps to a new level.

Wilson, who has been York’s mentor for over 10 years, said, “What I’ve seen her do is be creative in her approach to driving solutions, rather than being focused on the outputs of how to make change. I’ve seen her just grow tremendously in her ability to be creative with all the resources that she has at her fingertips to really drive transformational change wherever she is.

At JOTF, York hosted resource clinics and partnered with attorneys to offer legal services such as record expungement assistance.

Joe Jones, founder and CEO of Center for Urban Families, worked with York while she was a policy associate at JOTF.

“Caryn is just the kind of person who will go beyond what’s reasonable,” Jones said. “It doesn’t make a difference if [it’s] three in the afternoon, three in the morning. She’s going to be available to fight and she’s going to drag as many people along with her to be soldiers in that battle.”

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“Having a woman of color out on the street on the corner, fighting for somebody that they don’t even know, you’re just one thing if you fight for somebody in your own family, or you fight for somebody that you don’t know, in those odd hours. That’s an example of tenacity and the compassion that I think exemplifies who she is as a person,” Jones said.


In her new role, York will continue Baltimore Corps’ expansion nationwide through its “City Corps” project, which aims to replicate what the organization does in other states. Birmingham, Alabama is the first attempt at expansion.

Partner cities like Birmingham will receive support in the form of grants and loans for diverse organizations.

Matthew D. Gallagher, board chair at Baltimore Corps and president and CEO of the Goldseker Foundation, said the organization is excited to welcome York.

“Bringing skilled leaders like Caryn back home to Baltimore is a testament to the organization’s success in growing and attracting talent where the city needs it most,” Gallagher said in a news release.

Sept. 5 will be York’s first day.

“I’m just excited to return back to Baltimore and step into these ecosystems of hope and support and change makers of folks who are just not willing to give up on Baltimore City ever,” York said.

For the record

An earlier version of this story misidentified whom Caryn York succeeded at Baltimore Corps. She took over from Fagin Harris, who is Gov. Wes Moore's chief of staff. The Sun regrets the error.