The (em)power of the Vineyard

Nonprofit program provides opportunities for inner-city Black women.

Connective, Inc. founder Ian Thomas Minor, left, and The World Is Your Oyster founder Anne Desrosiers at Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, helping to prepare for Brazilian Night. — Eunki Seonwoo

Updated June 10

Six recent high school graduates from New York City will be coming to Martha’s Vineyard in July to learn about themselves and the Island that is so different from the boroughs they call home. The cohort is coming to Martha’s Vineyard through a program offered by the youth nonprofit Connective, Inc., in partnership with The World Is Your Oyster, which is currently raising capital through its new Fern’s Fund. 

The fund was named in honor of the late Queen Fern Thomas, the mother of Connective founder Ian Thomas Minor. Minor spent a lot of his childhood on the Island, and graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2002. He now operates Connective from New York City. 

“This is an extension of my experience as a child here,” Minor told The Times. “Fern’s Fund is, in its simplest form, giving the same opportunities my mom gave us to other young women around the country.” 

Anne Desrosiers, founder of The World Is Your Oyster, said the high school graduates will be working at paid internships through Battle in the Bluffs, Connective’s basketball clinic that went virtual during COVID’s zenith, alongside taking leadership development courses and learning how to be a content creator on social media about their experiences during their week on Martha’s Vineyard. 

“Fern’s Fund is really a holistic program. Young people will be working Battle in the Bluffs, and we have six young ladies coming in the summer. We’re currently fundraising for housing, stipends, and meals. Obviously, the Vineyard is an expensive place,” Desrosiers said. 

Prior to coming aboard the program, each of the participants is tasked with raising $1,000 for their experience. Minor said, “It’s an audacious goal,” but fundraising or crowdsourcing and time management are important skill sets the participants will learn through this process. There are $250 scholarships available from Connective for the participants. 

This year’s program is a simpler version of what Minor envisions. As the program expands, the plan is to better curate participants’ experiences based on their interests, according to Minor. 

“As we start to scale, they’ll be able to choose, like, their passions. If somebody wants to be in retail, to be in fashion, we can look at Captain’s Club, or look at something like that,” he said, also listing hotels and art galleries as possible options. “We’re going to continue to build those connections so that the students will be able to come down and intern in their passions.” 

Minor said Fern’s Fund will act as a holistic funding arm, rather than just focusing on one program, such as Battle in the Bluffs. Desrosiers said the fund’s goal is to gradually increase its impact on youth and the number of donors over 10 years. Both nonprofits are used to operating with low budgets, sometimes in the red, which is also why Desroisers and Minor set up their consulting firm the Ed Experts. 

Another aspect of Fern’s Fund is a focus on Black young women. “We also want to be intentional in empowering young Black women, and minority women,” Minor said. 

Desrosiers concurred, mentioning how the school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately affects Black youth, and other systemic and social issues piled against them. Desrosiers said the students learn from and are empowered by people “who look like them, and us,” which supports the understanding of their own self-worth. 

“Experience ends up becoming the great equalizer,” Desrosiers said. “We also pay our young people because, again, that’s an equity thing. It means a lot to be able to pay, because I know growing up, personally, I didn’t take unpaid internships because I didn’t have it like that, and it costs money to open the door and leave the house, so I can’t necessarily do all of those things without making sure some money is coming back into my pocket.”

The hope for participants, alongside learning professionalism, is finding a better sense of self and what they want for their futures, which Desrosiers said can be augmented through interactions with Martha’s Vineyard employers and exploring the Island. 

“One of the things that happens as a young person growing up in the inner city is you don’t really know how to dream. You don’t really know what it’s like to see stars, you don’t really know what it’s like to just exist in a world that’s beyond concrete,” Desrosiers said, adding that these experiences have a lasting impact on young women. 

Minor attests to the Vineyard’s magic from his own experiences and from the change he sees in those he has brought to the Island. 

“By the virtue of the natural resources of the Vineyard being the Vineyard, that itself is powerful enough, because it’s like a cost-effective trip abroad, going to the Vineyard. If you’ve never been off your block, you’ve never been out of your borough, it’s life-changing,” Minor said. Additionally, he mentioned how safe the Vineyard is, allowing a level of freedom and comfort that may not be available for the students when back home walking around the street to a bodega, or even to school. 

Minor said while there are challenges to making the nonprofit programs work, being adaptable and malleable allows their system to work and to provide continued support for the participants.

“The formula that works for me is the formula that is going to impact more kids,” he said. 

“I’m just excited for them,” said Desrosiers, who is looking forward to helping mentor the participants. 

To learn more about Fern’s Fund, visit

Corrected the nonprofit name from Connectedness to Connective, Inc.


  1. I am so proud to see what Ian has accomplished and what he is doing to pass the baton forward to so many youngsters. His Battle in the Bluffs has grown significantly and his latest endeavor alongside Ms. Desrosiers sounds wonderful and promising. I knew his mom Fern and am certain she is beaming from above. Wishing both Ian and Anne the very best and grateful for all they are doing to impact our children in such a positive way.

  2. I have known Ian his whole life and have followed his life and progress over the years with a great appreciation for the person he has become. Truly remarkable. An independent thinker who accomplishes what he sets out to do, and leaves his mark on the world. I know his mother is beaming looking at how Ian and all her children are doing.

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