The deadline for our mini golf installation is four weeks away, and there are still so many missing pieces. One of my biggest challenges this week was not with people—it was with geometry.

I had the following list of items:

24” putter: 10 clubs
27” putter: 10 clubs
29” putter: 10 clubs
33” putter: 10 clubs
35” putter: 10 clubs
37” putter: 10 clubs
10 boxes of 150 mini pencils
Score cards
Roughly 1,000 golf balls
Tarps & bungee cords
6’ table (36.5" x 29.6" x 3" folded)
Folding chairs (2)
Tent (7” x 7” x 52” folded)

My task was to find (or build) a lockable storage solution for these items that is inexpensive, compact, and both durable enough to last three months outdoors and temporary enough that it can easily be removed once the fall weather arrives.

I found a storage solution. We ordered it from Home Depot. I hope my ability to perform simple geometry didn’t fail me.

Logistical problems have been the bulk of my work at my internship. This geometrical challenge is simply one example of the problems I’ve faced. I must not forget that solving problems is more or less the definition of feeling fulfilled as a human.


Over the past few weeks I’ve gone to multiple trauma informed care trainings, and though I’m happy to be equipped with the tools I need to be a better teacher and mentor for children, I’m pretty fed up with going to trauma informed care trainings. Not because I don’t care about the trainings, but because I’m disgusted with the conditions we put our children through and I’m starting to feel traumatized by all the stories of trauma. I went to a training where a psychiatrists showed us brain scans of children that had been traumatized and those that had not, the children having been through trauma had noticeably smaller parts of the frontal lobe. As someone who has taken multiple neuroscience classes at Hopkins, I had a mix of emotions when I saw these scans. One being shock, that this was the first time I had seen these scans even though I go to supposedly one of the best schools for neuroscience in the US. Secondly, I felt anger towards important spokespeople like Ben Carson (Former Hopkins neuroscientist and current political puppet) who denounce the impact of trauma on life outcome and success, when neuroscience scans prove that it causes deficits to the brain. Thirdly, I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness for the fact that we are putting our children through this. Fourthly, I felt frustration that our society hasn’t progressed past trauma informed care trainings, to trauma prevention trainings. I don’t mind adjusting and being aware for trauma, but I would much rather prefer if my kids didn’t have to go through the pain and suffering of trauma in the first place. In our training we learned that children’s brains can bounce back with love and compassion which works as a form of rehabilitative medicine, but wouldn’t it be better if love and compassion were just a piece of candy that boosts and brightens a child’s day? These kids are amazing, and I wish everyone treated them with the respect and love they deserve.


This week however, I ran into someone who since March has been homeless. He asked me for money, saying that he would buy two bars of soap in front of me with the money. He pressured me insistently, and uncomfortable with the pressure yet wanting to help, I decided to do so. However, I wanted to do more than just give him money, so afterwards I tried to start a conversation with him and refer him to some health services that I knew of. When I left however, I left with mixed feelings.

Did I really help this person? Even though I had given him money and some referrals, for all I know I might have just reinforced his helplessness. He was clearly used to pressuring people for money and dependent on it for survival. Even a referral to a shelter might be further reinforcement. With shelters, you are at the mercy of whether or not there’s room in the shelter that night, and they are often emergency-only with no long term case management to get individuals off the streets.

This question of whether you are really making a difference is just as strong in a community arts program like Jubilee. It’s incredibly difficult to measure what a mural gives a community. How do you measure increased creativity? How do you measure life skills development? How do you measure empowerment?

I talked to one of my supervisors about this question. She gave an example of how difficult this is: if you want to measure life skills development, perhaps you can measure the level of college attainment of youth. This statistic is relatively high for graduates from the Jubilee Arts Youth in Business program that many youth enter from the summer program. However, this is still an adjacent measure. Not everyone wants to go to college or even can afford to go to college.

What really makes a difference? I don’t know, but I’ll never find out unless I keep asking this question.


Glitter shimmering, shaved ice with so many colors you didn’t know even existed, and more laughter than I’d heard in a while. You’d think I were talking about a circus or a carnival even. But no, this was PRIDE! One of the biggest and greatest events on this very planet. I don’t just say that because I’m working for the organization that single-handedly organizes and executes the event (parade, block party, festival, and all!!!), but because it’s true. Where else are you only going to find love and happiness- true freedom of expression. I think THIS is what our constitution was talking about when it says “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And yes, the days were long and sunny, sweat definitely dripped from my forehead (maybe from the cotton candy colored wig I was sporting), and I had way more sugar than should be permitted, but it was so fantastic. I cannot imagine the grace and patience it took to create this masterpiece of beautiful bodies, singing bodies, bodies in speedos and tutus. It is truly remarkable.

Flash forward to this week. I was a little worried that this would be the peak and the rest of my internship would not be so colorful. I have no idea why that idea even popped up, as if being in an LGBTQ community center isn’t fun enough. But anyways, I was worried. And especially because my supervisor would be gone all week. What was I going to do? Who would I talk to? Would I just be sitting here staring at my computer screen and listening to the ticking of my watch until the end of the day? No. That’s a silly thing to think. I’ve been able to create projects out of the blue and do them- really do them. No micromanaging. No passive-aggression from staff. They really do trust me and I am so grateful. Because of this freedom- this true freedom- I’m working on so many creative projects and developing my software skills. I’m making flyers, giveaway advertisements, a map project, a website mockup, and so much more. This summer is truly a summer for personal and professional development as well as for really learning more about myself and what I love… I just hope the same is happening for my peers.


The design team has been working on a project for the Baltimore City Health Department and I was asked to begin to help and get involved with the group and I had a great time. I have gotten to organize an interview session with other Baltimore youth (with the help of another CIIP Intern!) and was able to sit in on their conversations and see how they come up with their projects. I was blown away by the professionalism and ideas that the students had as well as felt like I was able to contribute to the discussions going on. This second week, I have begun to understand my place in the office and really have enjoyed the time I have spent here.



When I found out that I would be working with an organization that supports people in acquiring their GEDs, I had no idea how many young children would be present at work everyday. I was shown otherwise upon starting, learning that many people enrolled in YO have children of their own that come with them when they come each day to practice for their tests. I’ve spent days alternating between teaching long division and coloring pictures of different animals.
One day in particular stands out to me as having lots of children present—the director of my organization brought in her newborn for the office to see, and a woman that I had been working on math with for a large portion of the day had brought in her young son who spent the time that his mother and I were going over polynomial factorization trying to show me how cool his fidget spinner was. Later that day, in a focus group, one young man enrolled in YO nostalgically spoke of his daughter and how the first time he held her after she was born, he looked at her and thought “I really need to step it up”. The sincerity in his voice was amazing.

Being around so many kids brings me back to when my little brother was born-- having two older siblings at the time gave five-year-old me a sense of entitlement to my little brother, as my older brother and sister had both already experienced what it was like to show someone the ropes of life. In my head, it was my responsibility to look out for him and help raise him with all the knowledge that I had accrued in my short time on earth up to that point.

It’s crazy the effect that a child can have on someone, whether a first-time older sibling or a new parent, there is not much that’s more life-changing than a new life altogether.


Even in the span of two weeks, I'm beginning to feel far more familiar with Liberty. I know my way around the school, where things go, and have started building relationships with faculty outside of Mr. Manko, who I primarily spend my time with. It's a reaffirming feeling, when you walk into a building and can say hi to several people and ask about their weekend, instead of walking shyly past.

Not only that, but I feel more confident even accomplishing the projects I've been assigned. Given how understaffed Liberty is, particularly during the summer, it was overwhelming to think these people had so much faith in me to competently complete tasks like payroll for all the teachers and managing our 10 YouthWorkers. Quickly I understood the Herculean power Mr. Manko, and other nonprofit leaders, has in order to keep track of 15 different projects. Miraculously, he doesn't write anything down, but seemingly has a to do constantly running in his head, while I have 10 Sticky Notes plastered around and hastily written bullets on a scrap piece of paper in order to make sure everything I want gets done.

I worried about being able to step up to the task, but the trust, confidence, and high expectations the faculty of this school has set for me has pushed me to work harder than I have at any job. And I'm determined to not only meet those expectations, but far surpass them.


When I first got assigned to Code in the School, I imagined that I would have moments similar to the ones pictured in college brochures. I initially thought that I would be actively engaging with students at all moments of the day or peacefully eating a salad for lunch. In fact, I think the idea of working at non-profits is significantly glamorized by most people. However, my first two weeks consisted of looking at un-alphabetized excel spreadsheets, trying to eat bagels in 5 minutes, and spending a lot of time in Charlotte’s car trying to get to meetings that were scheduled way too close to one another. My experiences so far have differed from what I envisioned, but I have enjoyed almost every moment I have spent with Code in the Schools.

The entirety of my Week 2 can be summarized by one excel spread sheet that has been appropriately named the ***Masterlist***. This list consists of the name of all 65 students, their birthday, email, registration status, and classes. The content of the list seems fairly simple, but this list was probably the information that was combined and cross-checked with 10 other spreadsheets, emails, and YouthWorks packets. Not to be completely overdramatic, but this excel sheet was the bane of my existence during multiple points of the week. Everything seemed to depend on it, yet it was changing every single day. However, this changed my perspective on the work that was being done by my program and YouthWorks. Although this may sound obvious, I never fully imagined the time and energy it would take to organize and facilitate a program. And it further encourages and motivates me to work harder, knowing the number of people that I know are placing their full effort and energy into their causes.


As we started to understand what we would actually be doing this summer, we realized that there would be a lot of planning involved. Monday, we spent the entire day preparing and planning for the week ahead and managing all of our YouthWorks and DAASI placements. We planned for the rest of the summer – which sites we would visit during which weeks, and during which weeks we needed to take care of what tasks. Then, Tuesday came along. On Tuesday, YouthWorks emailed me with 30 new placements for our students. At first I sank in my chair. I was already in the middle of a lot of paperwork, making work permits for our students, when we received all of the new placements.

The most important thing I’ve learned at Thread so far is to never ever ever lose sight of the big picture. Why am I here? What is Angad Uppal’s purpose at Thread? As long as I can help one student this summer realize what a job is like and why a job is important and should be valued, my summer will be a success.

On Wednesday Tena and I went to training for all of the employers hosted by YouthWorks at REACH school. Although this was mostly details and information I had read before, there was one workshop in particular that I am glad I went to. The workshop was about trauma and how employers need to be mindful of the different challenges that students are facing. The workshop transcended the program because the presenter was able to use examples from his own life and really made us think about the way we treat one another as human beings on this earth.

Another amazing experience I had this week was on Thursday. I had to go to Occupational Health at Johns Hopkins Hospital in order to make sure that all of the students who were working at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus received all of their TB tests. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting for our students to arrive. When one would enter, I saw their eyes struck with fear because they had entered an environment that they were not comfortable in. As soon as they saw my Thread shirt, they would breathe a sigh of relief. As someone who is still new to Thread as an organization, this was really impactful for me. It just showed me how big of a difference a non-profit could make in the lives of kids throughout Baltimore City.

The rest of the week was spent contacting those 30 new employers and finding out where exactly their organizations were and a contact person for the placement. We then emailed all 180 Thread students their placements for the summer. We are looking forward to YouthWorks starting up on Monday! Wish us luck!



This week I learned canoes are terrifying to the average Baltimorean kid. Every program throughout the week began with assuring the kids that their life vests would, in fact, keep them alive, that their boats wouldn’t tip over as soon as they hit the water, and that there were no sharks in the Patapsco River. They cautiously accepted our assurance of their safety, but that didn’t stop their anxious conversation with each other before getting on the water.
Every group calmed down almost immediately once they all started paddling, getting used to how calm the water was. Watching them gain confidence steering the boat and overcoming their worry was the best part of working this week. Slowly, the conversation shifted from accusing floating logs of being alligators or giant fish, to whose birthday party was coming up that week.

All the while I sat in the back of the boat, helping steer or provide some thrust.

Other than they youth groups, it was a pretty frustrating week. I spent a lot longer doing bike maintenance than I would’ve liked. My tire was intent on going flat in a variety of ways. Once, I came back to a small gash in the side while I was out on kayak tours in the harbor. Next was a dramatic pop near M&T bank stadium on my way to Middle Branch Park. Last was a pinch flat after having squeezed an inner tube that was slightly too large onto my wheel. I think my streak of bad luck is over, but I’m going to be riding extra cautiously for a while.


“We tend to barge through this world. Other things have to be more deliberate.” We were on a mission to find a Carpinus Caroliniana, Glenda’s favorite tree. She thought there’d be one North-facing on the path near the creek, so we went on a hike to look.

My project for the summer has been to start a map of favorite trees in the city for TreeBaltimore’s website. The goal is to engage with a wider audience and celebrate not just large notable trees but any tree for any reason. So far, though, the email that I created for submissions has an empty inbox, so I’ve been meeting with folks who work at various parks and forests throughout the city.

Today I was at Cylburn Arboretum, walking in the woods, on the hunt for a tree I had never even heard of before today. We made our way around the trail, listening to the sounds of the birds and the creek and of the Jones Falls Expressway. We were in a little chunk of forest within the city, what used to be the countryside. We saw a lot of black raspberries, not quite ready to be harvested, a grapevine at least a foot thick, and two trees that had grown into one. We didn’t find the Carpinus Caroliniana.


After this week, I have a new understanding of the term ‘back-breaking labor’. Spending hours at the farm bent double means that every day when I go home, the first thing I do is crawl into bed, trying to ease the kinks from my spine before I go to work the next day and renew the aches all over again. I can’t imagine the toll it takes on those who have to do this kind of labor their whole lives – that must take mental and physical strength I can only begin to comprehend.

Now that I've adjusted to the initial shock of the farming lifestyle, I spent the second week on the farm settling into something of a routine. By now I’ve worked with everyone at Boone Street, and let me tell you, pruning tomatoes with people is a great way to make friends fast. The farm has such a cheerful, easygoing atmosphere that it’s easy to enjoy the work. Of course, this routine will certainly be reshuffled with the arrival of six YouthWorks participants next week, but I’ll continue to work towards being a dependable, competent member of the team.

Another thing I’m working on: my commute. I’m still learning how to walk through the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood Boone Street is located in. I see people stare at me as I walk by, a white girl clearly out of place in this black neighborhood. To some extent, here I wear my dirt stains as a badge of pride: see, they seem to say, I’m here to do honest work. I’m not some kind of tourist, I don’t think I’m better than you. And while a couple people might make unwanted comments – “nice legs” is not how I prefer to be greeted by strangers – the majority of people are so incredibly friendly. They’ll say hello, ask me if I know the weather forecast for the evening, just be neighborly. I’m trying to stop hiding beneath my baseball cap, too shy to return gazes, and instead feel more comfortable saying ‘hello’ first. Our motto is “In the community, with the community” and to me, this is where it starts.


The second week of work has been a bit slow compared to the first week, in terms of both learning and new work to do. The main work that I tackled this week involved a spreadsheet with data on all of the forest patches throughout Baltimore City, and I was tasked with sorting them into single owner (one person/organization), two owners, and more than two owners. This was quite the lengthy and tedious process, since the spreadsheet contained over 11,000 different lots (which equates to about 2,230 different forest patches) and we initially read the spreadsheet incorrectly, so the work had to be restarted next week. I also had to do many revisions to the spreadsheet, such as fixing the lot size measurements, accounting for incomplete lot data, etc. After completing the sorting of the list, Katie (supervisor) also asked for me to collect summary data for each category (one owner, two owners, 3+ owners) such as total and average acreage, neighborhoods included, position of each lot relevant to a nearby park, and number of lots and patches overall. I'll include this data in the next blog.

I also did two other smaller projects; looking over our long-term agreements with our protected sites and sending in plant orders for a few forest patches that BGS works with. Most of our sites did have updated LTAs for 2016, but a few (3 out of the 9) either had older LTAs or were not signed by the site manager or assistant site manager. Updating the LTAs is something that can be done at a later date and with relative ease. We also put together our monthly plant order for forest floor plants that we buy for forest stewards at no cost to them (budget of $200). So far it's been a lot of office and data work, which isn't a bad thing, I just hope that the work becomes a bit more engaging as the program goes on (didn't get to go gardening this week either, RIP).


This week was relatively slow at the clinic. I dallied around a lot with the other volunteers, and my sprained ankle prevented me from going out to the garden as much as I would have wanted. However, I was able to give a few Wellness Orientations (WO) to patients the past couple weeks. Pretty much, it is when an administrative volunteer goes over the Wellness services with an interested patient. I show them the monthly calendar, give them a few flyers and pamphlets of pertinent programs and appointments, and get them signed up.

One patient came in with one of the staff nurses at the clinic. The nurse sat the patient down while saying “I will call you every day to remind you take your medications.” I looked down at the referral and it said “noncompliant,” meaning the patient is averse to taking her medications and her diabetes is uncontrolled. Doctors don’t like these patients. What is the doctor supposed to do if the patient doesn’t use the medications? What could improve? This is where the wellness center comes in—the center provides diabetes self-management nutrition and education on the importance of medication and healthy lifestyle for diabetes.

When I sat with the patient to determine her options, she was interested in joining nutrition classes and immediately got a diabetes education appointment scheduled for next week. She didn’t seem very noncompliant to me, but I’m not sure if it was just because I was right there or if she truly wanted to complete the program. I was worried she did not want to be counseled on her diabetes and wouldn’t show up to her appointment. The other day, on the phone, I was trying to schedule someone for their initial diabetes nutrition appointment. Though we ended up scheduling him for one a couple months away, we had one available next week. He turned us down and he didn’t seem like he wanted to come to the appointment. But what am I supposed to do?

Doing the healthy thing is usually hard. Taking medications can interfere with your daily routine. Potato chips and chocolate always taste better than carrots. How do we encourage these healthy, safer behaviors? This is the big question of doctors, nutritionists, police officers, social workers and others who have to promote healthy habits and behaviors. We can't force people to do anything. But we do have to make sure they have all the tools and information to make the choice--hopefully the healthier one.

At the Wellness Center, this has been a recent challenge for me. How do I encourage wellness and health in the community around me? The Shepherd's Clinic & Joy Wellness Center is in the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore, which, evident from the fenced up and boarded up houses scattered between inhabited homes, is underserved and needs healthcare and plentiful healthy foods. They need the tools and means to have a healthy life. I wish work on that this summer and learn how to synthesize kindness, knowledge, and persuasion effectively to create behavior change by getting people into the clinic and to their appointments.



MR. & MRS. K--

“…and she hasn’t been doing too well.”
“All right sir, in order for your wife to become a patient here, I’m going to have to ask you a few questions to see if she’s eligible – does that sound okay?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“First of all, does she have insurance?”
“Can you tell me what zipcode you live in?”
“Great.. so our clinic only accepts patients in thirteen zipcodes in the surrounding area, and you fall in that range. Next is an estimate of yearly household income. How many people are you supporting?”
“I’m earning about X per every two weeks, supporting my wife and our daughter, we live with my parents.. is that okay? I’ve been paying all the bills, my father earns about $ per month, and my wife receives $ in social security checks… I don’t know exactly how much per month or year, it depends on my hours, I…”
“That’s fine Mr. K. Let me look at this for you.. can I put you on hold for a minute?”
“Of course”
“Mr. K?”
“Yes ma’am?”
“So it looks like you’ve just passed the eligibility cutoff for Medicaid - which would make your wife an eligible patient at Shepherd’s. I can go ahead and schedule your appointment, sound good?”
“Yes. Thank you”

MRS. D--

“…it’s urgent.”
“Ummm, I’m not sure what I can do about that.. Can I put you on hold for a minute?”
“…All right, so I talked to our nurse coordinator, who said that the swelling could be normal, and you’re going to need to elevate your leg and keep it iced. If there’s still swelling on Tuesday, then call back and we’ll schedule a doctor’s appointment.”
“It’s not going away, I’m not sure what to do… it’s been hurting, and I don’t know what to do..”

MR. B--

“…sorry, can you repeat that?”
“So we’re located at 2800 Kirk Ave., I think you’ll need me to help find you directions?”
“Yes please, I.. am new here, I don’t know the directions, I have to take the bus.”
“Well, the bus schedules are actually changing on Sunday, so why don’t I give you a call back on Tuesday and help you then? Funnily enough, I don’t actually know how I’ll get home from work yet, haha.


I met the Mr. and Mrs. K at the clinic today – they asked for my name upon entering, and I made conversation with them as they signed in. Mrs. D was more difficult. I had to ask our nurse coordinator what to do about her swelling, since we don’t really do walk-ins. If this was an emergency situation, then I should help her find urgent care. Hopefully the swelling goes away by Tuesday – I think she’d just had knee surgery. The Mr. B was my favorite. He was new to the US and I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with him over two days, just trying to make sure he’d be able to reach the clinic. I got to meet him in person on Wednesday. The sweetest success.


Although I had done quick, 5 minute long trainings outside Red Emma's, which were in a quite informal setting, I hadn't delivered a presentation yet. What I love about the trainings, every time I observe them, are the great questions that people ask. "What happens when you inject Naloxone in case of stimulant overdose?" "How long does Naloxone last in the body and what happens if the drug's half life is longer than the medication's?" I am always impressed by my supervisor's thoughtful and clear answers. She is always calm, prepared, and confident, and has a breadth of knowledge about the subject. My first solo (supervised) presentation was at AIRS, a housing program, and I had the amazing opportunity to train an inquisitive, smart group of individuals. I was nervous about answering questions, but I approached the training with confidence, hoping to carry it out the way my supervisor does. However, I could not have anticipated the challenge of training others. "Is it possible for fentanyl to be cooked in home labs, similar to methamphetamine?" I had no idea. I had this idea that I would be able to address questions confidently, but I froze for the five longest seconds, and all I could say was "I'm not sure". Then, I looked to my supervisor, and of course, she had the answer. In retrospect, I am glad I was faced with questions I didn't know about, because as I have been told, it is important to be able to say "I don't know". I don't have the experience of a seasoned trainer yet, but that is another goal I am going to set for myself this summer.



I didn’t show up for work today. Yet I experienced an intimate insight into the lives of our patients that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I spent the day at the hailed Johns Hopkins hospital.
Cue the trumpets and fanfare! Ah, let us bask in the glory of that resplendent name.

Let’s applaud for the worst experience I’ve ever encountered in healthcare. And I wasn’t even the patient. Slow clap.
For the past 12 hours I have been here in this freezing, white-walled hallway accompanying my friend who had a medical emergency last night. He’s been waiting longer.

I had the urge to ask around to make sure I was in the emergency room and not the sit around, lounge, and passively wait for your desperate illness to swallow you room. I shook away the thought. Psh, Eillen! That name doesn’t have a ring to it! And Hopkins is all about looking good and sounding good on the exterior.

For a place crawling with nurses, there doesn’t seem to much patient care going down. Plenty of insulting and ignoring of patients though.

The nurses were speaking offensively about my friend and other patients in French. Sneaky. You know what’s sneakier? My friend speaks French. He politely made his French acumen known. I guess the look on their faces almost made that horrendous wait bearable. Almost.

My friend came into the emergency room at midnight. He wasn’t seen by a doctor until 1 pm. I guess if your head isn’t hanging from your body by a thread of flesh, you’re not important. And even dying status might not guarantee attention. At least that’s how it felt. You go in, expecting care--instead receive delayed attention and a hefty bill that can only be scoffed at. I get it. The hospital is overwhelmed. There are no physical hospital beds available. The staff works tirelessly patient after patient. They do what they can. Sure. But this does not detract from the fact that the system seemed to dehumanize the very people it was supposedly constructed for. This does not take away from the suffering that people endure when they’re told by desensitized nurses whose eyes are always fixated on another patient’s file or computer screen that they just have to wait their turn. That there's a process for each case. I can’t help but wonder, what happened to addressing the human attached to that case?

Most of the patients that enter Esperanza with pressing issues have been to the Johns Hopkins Emergency Department multiple times. I've seen it in their files reduced to a single line.
In the paperwork we have for patients to complete, there’s a checkbox corresponding to the following: “Check if Esperanza Center were not here, would you have gone to the emergency room?” No box has been left unchecked.
After this experience, I’m slightly more in tune to what our patients have faced or are willing to face. Except there’s a difference. They deal with situations like these and worse, every day. Some of our patients have survived stab wounds, assaults, separation anxiety in their countries and here without formal treatment. They won’t complain. They’ve been conditioned to remain silent. For protection.

I now keep that in mind when we leave our patients waiting for hours. I remember that although the filing is important, each file is a human life. And each deserves that regard. I now understand better that while Esperanza is a source of relief and hope just by existing, we must work to remember that each patient that walks into our clinic matters and we need to express that. It’s easy to become numb to other people’s pain when it becomes your everyday.

I know I just spewed a bit of a rant. But sometimes there’s got to be complaint. I am a Hopkins student. I love my institution. I love what Hopkins has done by supporting the TAP program. To have programs like CIIP. Which puts me in an even more prime position to criticize and desire for the quality of our institution to improve. Because I am a Hopkins student, I am privileged. So I will complain. It is my privilege to complain and rant to urge my voice to be heard for those that are not. I’d rather have some ruckus than fanfare.


Community outreach is a funny phrase. Everyone throws it around, I was guilty of it too, but I didn’t realize how complex this term was until I started my second week. A big part of this week involved attending community health and wellness fairs around the city to represent my community partner, Charm City Care Connection. So we would drag our outreach bin with us to a table, pull out our materials, place a collection of 200 or so rocks to beat the wind and sit in the sun while waiting for community members to approach us. Pretty soon, after hearing my supervisor repeat our mission statement a few times I got the hang of it, and I liked our elevator pitch. We received the same questions and our answers were always the same. But the number of community members we spoke to was greatly overshadowed by the number of other nonprofit vendors who passed around to learn more about other groups in attendance. At all of the events I visited, I saw a very similar picture - vendors sitting and speaking with each other. I met some of the vendors and realized that within the health care and health policy field there were few that provided overlapping services. As my supervisor described it, these community outreach events were a good way to witness the oversaturation of nonprofit organizations in Baltimore. The question remained however - was the low community response to each of these events a result of all of our hard work? Were the community’s needs being met? Or did we need to do more community outreach to see a better turn out? Maybe instead of more outreach, we needed to try another type of outreach. I learned the answer revolved around this funny word. And it continues to be a tool to be explored in the coming weeks.


PRIDE was truly an incredible experience and I highly encourage everyone try to attend it eventually. From the people I bonded with to the bright colors and smiles I saw, I was in awe of the entire community coming together and embracing their true selves. Having the ability to walk in the parade with Chase Brexton and table with them on Sunday in Druid Hill Park was an honor and an experience that I will cherish. That being said, I am excited it is over and can relax again. However, I realize I used the term “relax” loosely because there is never a dull moment in the office.
On Monday and Tuesday, I went with my supervisor to two different LGBT informative trainings and it was interesting to see the composition of the groups, the interaction level, what topics were being discussed, and read the non-verbal cues that filled the air since the trainings were different, but not in ways I primarily expected. For example, the training that I thought would be the more excited and engaged seemed more reserved and with less of a desire to be there.
For the first training, I was inspired by the gentleman who brought us in to talk. He told us about his efforts regarding developing a new rainbow logo that the organization can use and bringing everyone in the office together to walk in their first PRIDE parade. He was so passionate about making a positive difference and one could see that his feelings were contagious with his fellow co-workers.
Also, one of my co-worker’s last day was Wednesday. As it is sad for everyone to see her leave, I also find myself nervous as some of her primary responsibilities involving the SAGECAP program will fall to me since the office is already understaffed as it is. However, I am excited to help, learn, and grow from this experience while attempting to make the transition a smooth one.



After my experience in CIIP last summer, I knew this internship would present obstacles that I could not foresee or prepare for. However, I did not think this would happen so early on in my time at the Nate Tatum Community Center. My supervisor, Ms. Lottie, left earlier in the week for a two week trip in order to begin using her vacation days before she retires at the end of August. On Monday, she gave me the keys to the center and left me with a task list to work on while she was on vacation and suddenly, I was the only person who would be staffing the center full time.

Due to the timing of her vacation, this week was spent completely on my own working in the office as her replacement wouldn't be starting until the next week. I wasn't too concerned because I was left with plenty to do but at the same time, I wasn't prepared for the tasks I would acquire outside of that list. I found myself starting something on the list and getting interrupted more than five times whether it was a community member at the door, children trying to escape the heat and boredom of summer, an email that needed an urgent reply or action, or having to leave for a meeting. I figured the tasks left for me would be easily completed in the time that my supervisor was gone but now I find that this may not be the case. However, this does almost seem like a lesson Ms. Lottie (in her absence)left for me to learn. It is often easy to come up with ideas, plans, projects, and more to serve a community that is looking to strengthen itself but these things are not easily accomplished unless the basic needs of the people are met.

I am working on projects that are meant to engage the community and provide them with fun opportunities to not only better themselves but also the community as a whole but this means nothing if I am unable to lead them to the basic resources for survival. At first, I felt disappointed that I may not be able to finish all of the tasks left for me by Ms. Lottie but now, I find myself realizing that the work outside of those tasks (even if it were a simple task) is just as important as the ones on the list I was given. I was taken away from my task list to brainstorm with the councilman for our district to solve a greening project issue. I was taken away from my task list to help serve lunch to inmates as they were cleaning the local park. I was taken away from my task list to help stand up a tree that had been blown over in the middle of a rainstorm. I was taken away from my task list to learn an important lesson in community organizing. I am incredibly lucky to be able to serve this community and I wouldn't want it any other way.


This week I learned two things I did not know about Abraham Lincoln: one, during the Civil War in 1961 he alone made the decision to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, which allowed the army to arrest and hold prisoners indefinitely without any charges, in order to keep secessionists in states like Maryland from voting in favor of secession from the Union. I also learned that, according to multiple historical sources analyzed in the book Queer, There and Everywhere by Sarah Prager, President Lincoln was a queer man. Despite being married he sustained a relationship with a man named Josh, as evidenced in letters and other documents.

The fact that I didn’t know either of these facts is important, but not surprising, given that history books and the media present Abraham Lincoln in a very specific light: a heterosexual, white man who was perhaps one of the best presidents in the history of the United States. However, upon learning these two things about him, my perception of him acquired a depth that I had never seen in him when I studied him in history class. I no longer saw an incorruptible and strong man, but a flawed, brave, and even vulnerable one. I saw him more human.
One of the most important projects I’m working on right now is creating 2 lessons that fit in with the theme “Citizenship”. My instructions were vague and I was left to decide pretty much on my own what materials I could fit in the course of two hours that would help middle school-aged youth understand how to become better citizens. Could it be government? Current events? Citizen duties and responsibilities? There were just too many subjects that seemed too important. Then I considered how learning that about Lincoln changed my perspective of him and of some aspects in education and history that we accept as norm. I thought of the LGBT youth who might see themselves in Lincoln as he struggled with depression after his (male) lover left him for a woman. I also thought of the children who admire him blindly, without considering some questionable and rather unethical choices that he made, who might now look at him in a different light.

There’s a saying that says something along the lines of “We need to know our history in order to avoid repeating it.” I decided to include a section on US history in citizenship week not so that the kids can avoid repeating history, but with the hopes that if they have a more complete knowledge of it, they may one day write their own history.


New week. New challenges. New learning opportunities. New questions.

This week, instead of just working for the Black Church Food Security Network, I was given the opportunity to broaden my horizon and work also with the Orita's Cross Freedom School. I spent the majority of the week however, working with the later.

Before getting to the main story of this week's post, here is what I did for the Food Security Network. So the BCFSN is a network of churches. We organized all the churches onto a google map so that it would be easier for others to see our reach. In order to better promote the network and spread the reason for the network, I have been travelling around to all the churches part of the network and making videos of a spokesperson for that church's garden. You see, each church is a part of the narrative we're trying to tell and what better way to do that than for them to speak for themselves.

Now, back to the Freedom School. A freedom school is a school which primarily highlights and teaches African-American history to young students (aged 3-12 years). The point of this is for the next generation to not lose a sense of their background and for them to understand what their ancestors went through for them to be where they are today. Orita's Cross does not stop there however; students are taught to also look through the various persepectives of which information is presented in order for them to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

When I first heard of the freedom school, I thought "wow, what a great idea" but with some skepticism followed up with "would these 'kids' really care?"

Boy, was I wrong.

These students are straight-up so woke about their ancestry and culture. On Wednesday, we did an activity where the students answered the question "why do I love my melanin?" Here are a few of their responses: I love
-my hair
-our energy
-that I get to be a part of this community
-our heritage
-being black because black is beautiful
I was genuinely so shook and impressed with the students. They really come to learn and it is something I sorta wish I grew up with. As young as they are, they seem prepared already to face the harsh world. For them to have this opportunity to be aware of racial issues will have a lasting impact on their lives.

I spent the majority of my free time the last few days really thinking about race: what it really means to be not white in America. During our Bites session, someone brought up how their mom packed their lunch as a child to be just like American kids out of fear of being isolated for being different. While I completely understand that (in fact, I am guilty of doing the exact same), in hindsight, I am realizing that we were basically saying that "white is normal" and "white is right". This action can definitely be seen as attempting to assimilate into a culture, however this inherent fear of being different culturally has in a way contributed to systematic racism in this country. I know that's a bold statement to make and I definitely jumped a few hoops to reach this conclusion but hear me out. Think about this, the simple act of adjusting our lunches to fit the "white way" in a way not only diminishes our culture and origins, it also validates and reassures the belief that "white is right". Throughout history, people fought SO SO HARD to become a part of this nation- to be considered "white" in the eyes of the law. Let's keep going with the established idea that "white is normal." Anything that deviates from this norm is met with vary levels of curiosity, some of which leads to a positive sharing of culture or other times leads a from of ostracization. Even at my age, it is as if non-whites must act white to earn a certain level of respect. Micro-aggressive statement like "you're so nice for a black guy" or "you're so well behaved!" While I do not personally deny being genuinely nice and decorous, I find it interesting that we come to associate these perfectly normal traits to "white traits". Often times in middle school, I was isolated for being "too white for the black kids" yet I was not "white enough" for the white kids simply because of my skin. The more adult version of "not being white enough" becomes apparent in police-on-black violence.

I am beginning to wonder a few things: how does knowing our ancestry and culture really help us in today's world when it seems the only way to save your life in is to act white? In what ways does this form of education help usher in a change for a better world when even being a model citizen still doesn’t save your life? I ask these questions in wake of the verdict for Jeronimo Yanez, the man who shot Philando Castile. This honestly opened my eye and shifted my perspective. I now have so many questions and I don’t know if they can be answered.

For now though, I am signing off, hoping to continue this conversation next week.


This week has been incredibly fun! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many more community members and finally start working with the children who are coming to the rec center. Even though this week the number isn’t too large managing six kids has been tiring, but at the same time very fun. From watching their creativity flow by make masterpieces as we like to call them to reading books and making sure every one was paying attention and understanding the material I have already seen them start to grow. The other thing that I have really enjoyed watching is how whenever new kids come by the kids her at the camp are very welcoming and are always just so thankful for other kids to play with them. Lastly, in reflection what makes me really smile is that I get more and more hugs each day in the morning and afternoon and that each day also gets easier and easier! I am a little bit worried about next week because a lot more kids are going to be coming, but I hope I will be able to rise to the expectations and still be a personable teacher and care taker and still be able to keep thinking of new and exciting crafts and activities! If any one has any ideas please let me know!


This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend that Baltimore Pride Parade as a representative of the Monument Quilt. I staffed a booth in the youth area of the event where individuals were encouraged to write, draw, or craft a message of support for LGBTQ survivors. It was an incredibly touching experience being able to interact with people and explain the powerful work that FORCE does. I struggled at times to describe the activity to younger participants; is there a right way to explain sexual and domestic violence to a child? However, I was surprised by the ease with which many of the youth understood the message and were willing to add their voice to the quilt.
Working in the Monument Quilt studio constantly pushes me to explore my emotions and reactions. One moment that I remember vividly from this week, was a word of advice that one of my supervisors gave me. After having apologized close to a dozen times for being very slow at accomplishing a task, she stopped me and asked, “can I tell you something that I feel might help you in your life? Instead of saying ‘I’m sorry’, say ‘thank you for being understanding, and flexible as I try to figure out this system’”.
Her suggestion really struck a chord with me; I have this incredibly obnoxious habit of apologizing for just about everything in my life (sneezing, driving the speed limit, the weather etc.) So this summer I am challenging myself to stop saying sorry, and instead thanking people for their flexibility and understanding.