“How do you reconcile the practice of western medicine, in which you were trained to become a licensed physician, with the ideas of alternative medicine, for which you strongly advocate?” we asked Dr. U, an internal medicine doctor at the Shepherd’s Clinic, who along with Dr. L helped bring the Joy Wellness Center into existence.

The Joy Wellness Center at the Shepherd’s Clinic is a volunteer driven nonprofit organization that offers programming that aims to teach patients how to better take care of themselves and maintain a healthy, balanced, self-empowering lifestyle. The Joy Wellness Center offers nutrition classes, yoga instruction, acupuncture and massage sessions, diabetes management, smoking cessation and breathing classes, and a slew of other amazing services. If a patient with hypertension walked in to the Shepherd’s Clinic, he or she would likely leave the clinic with a drug prescription, whereas if that same patient walked into the Joy Wellness Center, he or she might leave with a detailed exercise guide and nutrition handbook.

This past Tuesday during lunch Dr. U, Lucinda - another CIIP intern -, and I were raving about how amazing it is that the Shepherd’s Clinic and Joy Wellness Center exists and what a rarity it is to find an organization that provides such quality integrative health care free of charge. Dr. U is a die-hard fan of integrative medicine, which is why she helped create the Wellness center back in the early 2000s. We started to discuss how in western culture the effectiveness of alternative practices like acupuncture and breathing exercises is not so easily accepted. When asked the question proposed in the beginning of this entry, Dr. U explained how there is healing potential in everything. When her patients express critiques of alternative medicine, she acknowledges their reservations and then invites them to give it a try. There are many ways to go about treating someone, and there are some issues that can be healed without the use of medicine.

Dr. U shared a story about how a patient, Debbie, came into the clinic very distraught and combative. Debbie had gotten into a few arguments with several of the workers at the clinic and was resistant to seeing Dr. U. When Debbie arrived in Dr. U’s room, before the examination began, Dr. U invited Debbie to join her in a breathing exercise. With each inhale Dr. U called Debbie a flower, and with each exhale Debbie was to visualize herself being refreshed. Debbie had been fighting personal demons for several years and had been internally punishing herself for failing to overcome those demons. The day before the visit, Debbie had lost another battle to those demons. Her self-esteem had diminished and she grew defensive. In the midst of such deep self doubt, being called a flower by Dr. U moved Debbie to tears. Debbie became one of Dr. U’s best patients.

There’s healing potential in everything. I remembered this as a recently unemployed patient later that day talked about how sparking up brief conversations with people at the grocery store kept him from feeling worthless. I remembered this as another patient complemented my coworker’s smile and shared a story about how a smile from a stranger prevented him from going through with hanging himself. As we were closing down the clinic for the day, I remembered this as my coworkers and I talked about how yogurt can be used to treat yeast infections.


It’s the 3rd week of my internship. Everything feels in place…for the most part. I now have a set schedule, Tuesday through Friday from 12-6 and Saturdays from 9-3. My sleep schedule fits well with that of my work; it gives me extra time to review the progression of daily tasks my boss gives me. This way when I walk into the rec center at 12, I won’t be lost at what to do. More of the kids know my name, and I know more of theirs. It’s a great feeling to be able to call someone by their name, no matter how close or distant you are. I never really understood this importance in names till now, when I’m supervising 50 middle school students who make more noise than the bleachers of a Hopkins lacrosse game. Sometimes, the only thing these kids can hear is their name…sometimes. I’ve been stricter…not too strict. I had to let the kids know that Mr. Chi is fun and games, but Mr. Chi also means business. If you can crossover Mr. Chi, then break his ankles while doing it. But don’t waste time yelling that you can do it when it’s time to quiet down and head back for lunch. I’ve began to go out to the many Hispanic stores around Patterson Park and also talking to the Hispanic teenagers that come to use the open field.
However, I fear of complacency. I didn’t come to the Living Classrooms Foundation to fit in; I came to stand out through my dedication for the well-being of the kids. It’s not that easy. And I’ve learned from Reverend Glen Huber that good intentions mean nothing, especially if the good is fueled by ignorance. I feel like before I impose the imitation of any projects like my impending African dance club, I have to listen more, and see what the kids actually need, and see if my agenda falls in line with their necessities.


With watery eyes, she turned to me and said, “She’s ashamed of me because I’m Latina”.

On a rare quiet Wednesday afternoon, the other intern and I found ourselves with nothing to do but talk with the clinic’s administrator. She’s a full of life Colombian woman who does the job of three people on a daily basis and somehow manages to find every opportunity to crack a joke. One of my favorite parts of the internship is seeing her interact with our nurse practitioner who’s always misplacing his things.

(Picture a tall, older white guy trying to prove the little blonde Latin woman wrong on whether or not he remembered to date his papers, all while speaking Spanish. It’s my daily source of entertainment.)

So imagine how I felt to hear her say her half-Colombian, half-American daughter is ashamed of her for being Latina.

For being an immigrant.

For not speaking perfect English.

And as she continued to share this story, I couldn’t help but think that this has been happening to immigrant mothers for a very long time. When I told my own mother, she wasn’t even surprised.

You see, I came along a little late in the assimilation to America game. My dad had been here for six years and my mom and my brothers had been here for five by the time I was born. So while I get the occasional phone call of “Eileen, how do you write this name? Is this the proper way to say this sentence? Do you know what this word means,” I never had to go with my mom to her ESL classes after school.

I never had to move four times in five years before finally getting a house.

I never went a year without seeing my dad because he moved to the US first to set everything up.

And I most certainly never had to leave all my family in the Dominican Republic to move to a different country with a differently language.

My brothers did that. My mom did that. My dad had it a little better – all five of his siblings came with him, but still. My family made so many sacrifices to make a life in this country. It wasn’t even like they had a bad life in Santo Domingo – quite the contrary. Yet still, they gave it all up for a hope of something better here.

And while I wasn’t around when things were really bad, when maybe I would be ashamed to be seen with my non-English-speaking mother or admit I came from a Hispanic background, I can’t fathom ever disregarding that. I don’t know how you take something like someone you love leaving everything they know to go to a new place and provide you with a better life… and turn it into something to be ashamed of.

Being the daughter of an immigrant is nothing to hide, it’s something to be proud of.

"Soy lo que me enseñó mi padre,
el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre,
Soy américa Latina,
un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina”
- Calle 13


When you see a doctor, you probably expect that he or she is not afraid of blood—something that would be very disconcerting if you were to go with an open wound or something. Similarly, you would hope that the people you trust to educate your children are not afraid of children. However, your doctor’s not devoid of fear, she knows that there’s always a possibility that a single wrong move could create a lasting consequence. So she’s careful. Working with children is kind of like that. It’s not that I’m afraid of children, it’s just that—in all honesty, it’s kind of a scary job. Someone trusts me with their child, and everything I do is observed by twenty sets of young eyes.

As my first week as a site counselor draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on two major developments in my internship this summer. First, I have officially graduated from the training phase, and second, no amount of training actually prepares you for going out in the field, as it were. This is not to say the training wasn’t helpful—rather, it makes me wish for the controlled space of training, where you only deal with theoretical instances of children mashing bananas on the cafeteria tables during breakfast or the summer camp counselor dreamland notion of every child getting into your morning welcome song.

The very real feeling of mashed banana, however, clears all that theoretical stuff right up. And the stern teacher voice reprimanding the mess, that comes out of your box of tricks (that you didn’t think would actually work, but thankfully does) reminds you that it is going to be a long day.

And yet, when the energy starts flowing it doesn’t feel like a long day at all. Each site has different setups and schedules based on their counselors, for our site my co-counselors and I split the students up by age engaged with split ourselves one per unit. My favorite part of the day is the morning welcome—a chance to speak with my unit and check in with each of them.

As the leader of the Red Group, or rising second graders, I have a pretty tough crowd to impress each morning. What I noticed about my students, unlike the students in the other units, was that they didn’t come in fully hyped with energy. My co-counselors’ units around me did exercises to cool down the energy and prepare for the day. I however began my morning trying to hype my students up. In addition to being a SummerREADS counselor, I am also a camp counselor for Camp Kesem. One of things to warn you about this magical camp for kids whose parents have or have had cancer is that they train you with an arsenal of camp songs that never. ever. escape. your. memory. If you haven’t heard or performed the camp song, Get Loose, consider yourself lucky. Though if you have, you’re even luckier because you know. You know how they’ll all stare as you act sillier and sillier and finally crack a smile and “get loose”. The first morning I tried it I heard a lot of groans. I didn’t let it get me down especially since the next morning they sat down singing the song softly to themselves. Point Ms. Shibli.



Last week, I was given my first major assignment of the summer which was to create a report for quarterly/half-year report to the Abell Foundation. The report is mostly reporting metrics and evaluating our performance in the first six months since its inception. As I work on this assignment daily one thing that I have realized is that I love working with data and numbers. This really shocked me because I never saw myself as someone who would enjoy doing the more trivial, yet important work. I always assumed since I was a creative person, I would enjoy the communications and programming aspect of the organization. However, since working at Impact Hub one thing I have realized it that while I love coming up with new ideas for events or programs, I am not the best at following through with my vision. I have come to the realization that I tend to focus on the big picture and the final outcome instead of the small details that make the outcome happen. While this was difficult to accept at first, I have now learned to embrace it.
I think what I like about doing metrics/operations work is that the results are tangible. I am a very impatient person so the fact that when you work on metrics you see the results is most likely the reasons for why I like doing the work in the first place!


The man stands up and raises his voice challenging my supervisor on her intentions. I slump into my chair, trying to hide from the discomfort in the room. However, my supervisor remains poised, and calmly addresses the gentleman’s concerns sending him happily back to his seat and returning the meeting to focus. This was the scene at the Housing Round Table meeting last Thursday, where I finally got to attend a meeting where property owners, concerned citizens, stakeholders, and experts from several non-profits join together to discuss housing intervention within Baltimore. It was a particularly heated scene, with the sun beating down through the stain glass window and only a few very loud fans to keep us cool. The heat and the noise set the scene for a very dramatic event, yet the scene never did quite come to fruition. This is because my supervisor is a BOSS. She handles pressure like no one I have ever met. It was in this moment I grew even more amazed with her professionalism, and recognized I still have so much to learn from her community organizing skills. She can gain control of a room, not because she demands it, but because she is respectful, genuine and knows how to connect with people. I am very excited to be able to learn from her throughout the next month or so, in order to improve on these key leadership traits.


There are 3 New Yorkers in the office at Fusion, which makes us almost a majority. Whenever we say something that’s the slightest bit negative, Ally says jokingly, “there’s a New Yorker for ya.” Ally is Baltimore born and bred and is in charge of the community small grants program that Fusion is piloting. She works on the ground in East Baltimore to community organize.
One of the New Yorkers is Nancy, the accounting assistant, who has been with Fusion for two years and is leaving in August, and has grown more outspoken, in a good way, about the changes Fusion is capable of. The other New Yorker is Kristina, the operations consultant helping out Fusion’s revitalization over the past six months. Before I even knew that Nancy and Kristina were from New York, I saw commonalities between the three of us. We were always the cynics in the room, the ones questioning the means to the end and how we would get from square one to square two. That’s not to say we only shoot down ideas—quite the opposite. But there is a certain internal curiosity ticking in our heads. I realized this when Kristina and I would lock eyes in a mixture of disbelief and mild terror when one of the full time Fusion staff would describe a process to her that was either very off-the-cuff or nonexistent altogether.
New Yorkers have gotten a bad name for being dismissive, rude, and too fast-paced. While I admit to being a fast walker, I would say that I’m quite the opposite in other respects. I am very curious and enjoy asking a lot of questions about the ins and outs of things. Growing up in Manhattan helped me nurture this curiosity into a healthy skepticism of the status quo. Being around so many people and the ever-changing atmosphere, you learn to be a bit guarded in accepting things as truth.
There are the employees at Fusion who are the visionaries. They are avoidant of confrontation. They have the dreams and ideals that propel Fusion forward. They are the project starters. Then there are the traditionalists. They remind everyone what Fusion is and what it stands for. They respect the culture it has built over the years and are true to it. They are wary of change because they already know how to do everything with their eyes closed. The dreamers convince them to open them.
Some of these dreamers are also traditionalists too. Some of the New Yorkers act like dreamers. Some of the traditionalists act like New Yorkers. No one fits a single mold. But zooming out from the individual level, what makes this so special is the fusion of these unique individuals. A delicate balance has been forged, not spontaneous, but over many years of careful and deliberate craft. Everyone respects the balance. However, this doesn’t mean that tipping the balance is forbidden. In fact, rocking the boat has been embraced wholeheartedly by Fusion these past few months with their internal restructuring and growth. But the mostly-harmonious blend of characters is what keeps Fusion going, and it’s been amazing to realize where I’m starting to fit into the mix, while also realizing my simultaneous ephemerality and impact in its future.



"I am a historian, not a photographer," Mark said to me. Mark is the Mayor's photographer, and has taught me that a good photographer tells a story and doesn't just take a photo. Mark's job includes attending all of the events that the mayor attends, and also editing and uploading those photos onto the Mayor's website. He easily works over 50 hours a week, and not only has a joy for taking photos, but also for interacting with the subjects in these photos. I have shadowed Mark and watched the work he does, his photography captures a unique perspective into every event he attends.

This week I have been pushed not only with the work that goes into helping Mark, but working with many others in the communications wing of the Mayor's office. Two doors down from me is a women named Marva. Today I was tasked with helping Marva book clowns, mascots and balloon tiers for a back to school event in August which will have thousands of attendees.

I have helped Amanda to write daily newsclips. This involves waking up at around 5 am, and visiting seven online newspapers to catch up and compile all of the latest news articles into one large email. The email is critical for the office because of the importance of responding timely to news.

The office is busy, and I may not see all of my colleagues every day due to the events that everyone is running to, but I have enjoyed being included and a part of all of these many aspects of the office, and seeing the many pieces that go into running the office.




I’m easily awed. I have a collection of quotes and speeches and poems I believe are inspiring. When I read a book or watch a movie and I easily give in to the story line. And when I talk to someone, I can easily get swept up in what they say.

It’s something I’m working on. With this summer, as I’ve been meeting different people and organizations, all who seem to have exceptional motives and values, I need to make sure I don’t fall into a trap of going along with what I hear. When I hear about Baltimore Corps’ strategic plans or speakers at an Impact Hub event, I force myself to question the missions and ongoings.

Playing Devil’s Advocate is something that working at Baltimore Corps has made me think about more. The organization wants to shake things up. Disrupt the social impact sector in the city from becoming stagnant by questioning how programs work and if people are doing things just because it’s habit. And most importantly, is the work being done actually helping the city, which can be difficult to think about truly when you feel like you’ve given so much to a specific cause.

It’s kind of the same feeling I get when I question why I am attending college—did I go because I had the means to do so and it was expected of me to follow that particular path (go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, etc.) or did I really want to go? I want to say I did it for the later and I am enjoying and gaining a lot from college, but there’s always a nagging feeling that maybe I did choose to go to college because it was the safest bet.

“Privilege” is an encompassing word that I'll probably keep thinking about in new lenses throughout my life. Right now, I've been thinking that one of the things I have been privileged in is the ability to deviate, to risk my job, this internship, to go out of what is expected of me or choose differently because of the safety net I l am grateful to have that'll help me when I’m down. It’s something my dad did not have, my mom did not have, but something I have grown up. And I do not think I’ve fully embraced it yet.



Week one of the St. Francis Neighborhood Center Summer Program began this week—also marking the beginning of the toughest job I would have yet. I never thought about how difficult it would be to teach a class of 18 students (mostly because I never thought I would have to do so). How was I supposed to relate to these 10 year olds? How was I supposed to teach them about their community when I don't even know what it’s like? How strict am I supposed to be with them? What if they don't like me? All of these questions began popping into my head as students arrived early Monday morning. Very quickly, my patience was tested and the week began to feel as though it would never end. Week one of the summer program felt like an eternity and my only sense of relief looked like Thursday at 5pm since the center was closed on Fridays. I began to wonder whether or not this was all worth it—the walk every morning and evening, chasing around kids all day, breaking up fights, wiping away tears, and more. My job didn't stop there as I was also tasked with managing the YouthWorkers at our site. I didn't think this would be very difficult since they are all getting paid for their work this summer—but this proved not to be the case. For most of the YouthWorkers, this was their first job and they had no idea what it meant to be professional. It was difficult for them to understand the importance of showing up to work on time, how to fill out their timesheet, or even how to sign for something. I realized how important it was that I presented myself as their manager but also as a teacher and mentor. Every day since the first has proven to be a learning experience. I had never taught, managed, or supervised anyone and didn't think I would be doing so as a Junior in college. I felt so overwhelmed that I had to remind myself why I was here putting myself through such an intense experience—I was here to make a change in my new community. I had lost sight of this in the craziness of the 9-5 Monday through Thursday work week. All I could think about was the clock striking on Thursday at 5pm—but then I had a very special experience with one of my students. As we went out to the playground nearby, one of my students ran up and grabbed my hand so I could walk with her to the park. She sat with me and talked to me about a lot of the problems she had been having at home. She ended the conversation with, “You are the best teacher ever.” Her embrace preceding that comment made the craziness of the week worth it. I had never taught before and suddenly this young girl saw me as her mentor and role model. It was only week one and I had made a difference in someone’s life for the better. Even though every day is stressful and it may not get easier, the end goal of improving the lives of those around me will continue to motivate me to do the best I can even if I don't really know what I’m doing.



The simple yet powerful mantra, “work yourself out of a job”, that was shared with the CIIP interns during the week-long orientation at the beginning of June has been consistently epitomized in the Mayor’s Office of Human Services. Working the 8:00 to 4:00 shift usually means I’m one of the first employees to sign in and almost guarantees I’m one of the first employees to sign out at the end of the day. Meanwhile, the majority of the office goes above and beyond the typical 40-hour workweek, as the 9:00 to 5:00 becomes the 9:00 to 6:30 or 7:00. The first few mornings I recognized this trend came somewhat as a surprise because I expected the punch in, punch out mentality. However, I’ve become to understand the environment the employees at the MOHS have developed through their will and desire to give of themselves through their time and that’s becoming instilled in my heart. Rather then starting the day knowing I have eight hours to spend on processing applications, attending meetings, assisting navigator’s with the application process or researching topics for the new Coordinated Access system, I sit at my desk with the goal of accomplishing specific tasks over the next couple of days even if that requires a few more hours on my part. Especially when dealing with services that work alongside the homeless population, time remains one of the most valuable resources. If the extra hour or two I spent on the phone or responding to emails leads to the client’s application being referred to a housing program then it’s my responsibility as a member of the 2016 CIIP Cohort and an intern at the Mayor’s Office of Human Services to be there for that extra hour. What would I have done with that extra hour in the first place? Watched an episode of Breaking Bad? Studied an extra chapter for the MCAT? Yes, these two ways to spend those extra hours aren’t selfish or even wrong on my part, but that’s not why I applied to be an intern in the CIIP. The past three weeks has solidified my reasoning: to simply give of myself in order to attempt to make a difference in my community. For reinforcing why I became an intern with the CIIP, I would like to thank the people at the heart of the Homeless Services Program. Everyday when I sign out to the sight of dozens of empty boxes under the “time-out” column, I’m reminded of why I have been blessed with this opportunity. This summer will certainly stand out on my resume, introduce me to many people and networks that can benefit my future, personal goals, and possibly produce a coveted letter of recommendation, but that’s not why I’m blessed to be apart of the CIIP and the MOHS. This summer is a time for me to put my interests and desires on the back burner, behind the needs of those I am serving as a member of the Homeless Services Program. Although homelessness in Baltimore will most definitely be present come the end of the summer, I can continue attempting to work myself out of a job by giving up however much of my time is necessary to make a difference in the life of even one person who is in much greater need than me.


I usually love driving, but I can't say I enjoy it too much in Baltimore. Much of this week was focused on driving—not myself, but in preparing some of the youth to begin their driver's ed next week. It was just amusing because the first day of class is Monday, July 4th, and I KNOW 90% of the youth will not show up (I know I wouldn't, especially since they offer make-up classes. Lol why do you even have July 4th classes?).

Ranging from data input, to cookouts, and to renting a last-minute Zipcar to deliver some furniture to a recently housed youth, this week had no shortage of busy. Starting this week, about 11-13 youth began Art With A Heart, a program that pays the youth a small stipend to create art, which will eventually be sold at the program's store in Baltimore. The art session goes from 10 AM - 2 PM; our drop-in goes from 1:30-4:30 PM. So imagine this: at approximately 2:30, about 10-15 youth come into our building at once, demanding food, bus tokens, and anything else they need. It gets CRAZY. This week was probably the busiest week of my last 3 weeks here, but hey, apparently it might get worse. I think I might be ready now.

On top of that, on Thursday we had a freaking cook-out. A good idea on many levels, but serving 30 youth at once? It was a tall task, but we had some good food so I'm chillin'. I really love making 5 pitchers of lemonade; it's honestly the most exciting thing in the world. Couple that with fried chicken, hamburgers & hotdogs, and a bunch of "salads," you know I'm not cooking dinner Thursday night.

And to top everything off, on Friday I had to reserve a Zipcar (lol who would've thought you'd reserve a Zipcar for work cuz the main Zipcar person wasn't there). Now that was a blast. Don't worry, I didn't drive.


"It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures." Oprah Winfrey

Confidence has been something I was always lacked growing up. I didn’t participate in class for fear that I would say something stupid or wrong. I didn’t volunteer to show a drill during swim practice for fear that I will perform it wrong. I didn’t want to be a leader for fear that I will lead my peers down the wrong path. Building up confidence has always been a challenge for me.

Fast forward to summer 2016, I can say that my confidence has improved over the past 10 years of my life. From being captain of my varsity swim team in high school to holding multiple board positions in clubs here at Hopkins, my experiences as a leader have definitely made me feel more confident about myself and encouraged me to take risks. As a result, I’ve grown stronger as a person.

Working as an intern at the Franciscan Center, I had to not be afraid to do something. This past week, the volunteer coordinator at the Center was going to be out on vacation from Wednesday to Friday. She came up to me and asked if I was comfortable enough to be her substitute for the three days she was going to be out. I decided to do it. I thought to myself, why not? It was a great opportunity for me to learn how the Center was run.

The first day going in, I was extremely nervous. I was taking over a job that someone has done a great job with. Before she left, she showed me all the ropes, but despite all that, I still felt lost. I had two large groups of volunteers, in addition to regulars, to supervise. I had to make sure that the dining hall service was running smoothly. Because I gave the volunteers different duties around the building, I was running around, making sure that they were doing okay. There were times when I would have to switch some volunteers around as well. After observing her and the rest of the staff members for the past two weeks, I thought that I would be able to handle it. It was a very stressful time, but I believe that I did well, considering that the building has yet to burn down.

When one does something for the first time, it is okay to be nervous and it is okay if everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s how life is. Nothing goes the way you want it to, ever. I didn’t expect everything to go smoothly, but I did come out of the experience with a valuable lesson. I learned that while being confident is essential to taking risks and trying new things, you’re not going to be successful without the support of others. Without the rest of the staff members and regular volunteers, I wouldn’t have been able to run the dining hall service. Without the help of the staff members, I probably would’ve hid in the background feeling helpless. In a world like this, it is impossible to be successful without help. Success comes from a group of people that are willing to help each other out. It needs a team, and that’s exactly what the Franciscan Center staff is. They are a team, willing to step in for one another. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.


Last week I was able to tour the Baltimore Convention Center with members from the American Dentists Care Foundation, as well as other members of the Project Homeless Connect team. After weeks of incessant phone calls and emails I was beginning to forget the objective of my work, and the event was feeling less and less like a tangible goal. However, when we walked through the sliding glass doors and down the escalator to the giant halls where the event would take place in September, it all started to come to life. The space spans hundreds of thousands of square feet that will be filled with approximately 6,000 participants and volunteers. I actually walked passed the spot where dentists will be pulling teeth and through the path that volunteers would use to walk homeless participants to different service providers. As each week passes I grow more excited about the prospect of seeing this massive clinic and service event in action, and touring the space helped me envision where I will be in late September.

Another highlight from last week was the Baltimore Bites session; I really enjoyed learning about the education to incarceration pipeline. I have personally worked with students in Baltimore high schools, both private and public schools alike, and have been privy to the stark differences between the two. Interestingly enough, this discussion also tied in with the Bites session from the week before, when we discussed the rapid changing of communities in Baltimore, like Remington. The Community School, where I work during the year, is a small private school located in the Remington community, and I have witnessed this significant change take place. The area has changed to the point that many of the students who attend the school are no longer able to live in the community, and have to commute long distances in order to make it to class in the morning. It is disheartening to think of the difference between the education I received as compared to many other students in this city. I was dropped off and picked up from school by my mother and went to a good public school in New Jersey, a luxury I did not fully recognize at the time. Although we joke that these talks can get very cynical, I really enjoy learning more about the many facets that make up Baltimore. Then, when people from home ask me for the 500th time if I “feel safe living in Baltimore” I have developed a vocabulary and I am able to articulate the experiences I have had in Baltimore and what I have learned about the problems that still afflict Baltimore today.



A support group is simultaneously the most vulnerable and the most resilient place. Not only is this a place where people go to share their darkest moments and relive trauma, but it's also a place of tremendous strength, growth, and community. When I was welcomed into the TransCare Focus Group this past week, I didn't think it would be a super volatile place. Yes, people would talk about their horrible experiences with facing explicit discrimination by health care providers. And yes, people would re-emphasize the importance of using correct names and pronouns. But I didn't expect it to be a place of healing as well. Seeing the participants bond over the judgement and stigma that they are forced to face every time someone mis-genders them is truly heartbreaking. And having to deal with that when you're coming into a clinical environment just makes it that much worst. Rather than feeling dejected by the health care system's general neglect for people of trans-identity, these participants are making an active choice to speak about their positive experiences and help compose a list of necessary provider competencies. It's truly unbelievable for me to see the resilience that shined through in that room.

As I continue into the rest of my internship, I want to keep building these small, but meaningful relationships with people from the community. A large part of my work is learning how to be a supportive ally--both in the office and out. But I've realized now that the answer is simple: to treat everyone with the same respect, love, and compassion that I want for myself. All of the other details (such as learning the constantly changing terminology) can be worked out as they come along.



“Hey, be careful around here, okay?” My parents and friends did not tell me this when I informed them I would be walking to and from the shuttle stop to the Joy Wellness Center, part of Shepherd’s Clinic, this summer. My supervisor at the center did not tell me this as I left the clinic to go canvas the surrounding area of Northeast Baltimore. The volunteers from Civic Works Real Food Farm, whom I was handing out mobile farmers market flyers with, did not tell me this as we went door to door. Rather, a young boy sitting on his stoop said this to me as I stuffed my final flyer into the door handle of his neighbor’s house.
I have spent the majority of my three weeks at the Joy Wellness Center in the clinic, helping with administrative tasks, teaching classes, and tending the local garden. The Blue Jay Shuttle picks me up in front of Charles Commons and drops me off in front of Hopkins’ Eastern campus. From there, I take a short walk through Baltimore City College’s campus and then down the steps along The Alameda until I reach the clinic. All I know of the neighborhood next to us is from the staff in the clinic. I know that I am not allowed to leave the clinic by myself at night, and to always lock the back door behind me when I go out to garden.
Tuesday was my first experience walking through and spending time in a neighborhood where more houses are boarded up than lived in. The first few I went to, there were steel security storm doors to place the flyers in. As we continued, more and more houses just had wooden planks covering the windows and entrances. As I rounded the corner, I handed a flyer and a calendar of all the free classes we offer at the Joy Wellness Center to a couple sitting on their front porch. We conversed about the amount of stress in the neighborhood, and looking around, I could see the difficulty of remaining optimistic in this environment. Before I left the husband told me, “Don’t bother going to the rest of the houses on this side of the street. Nobody lives there.”
Since coming to Baltimore, and from our reflection session during the first week of the internship, I have continued to hear of the housing crisis in this city. Many of our patients come to us from Northeast Baltimore. Canvassing the neighborhood has allowed me to catch a glimpse of the issues they may face firsthand. In addition to being referred to the center for stress management, another major portion of our patients have Type 2 Diabetes. We often call them to schedule private diabetes self-management or nutrition consults. Sometimes they pick up the phone sounding tense and oftentimes do not show up to their appointments. Walking through Kirk Avenue and The Alameda for just a couple of hours has helped me better understand where some of our patients come from and how an appointment, as much as it is for their benefit, can add to their stress. Though I cannot help them find better housing or relieve their mental health issues, I can remain compassionate and understanding when scheduling their appointments and when talking with them at the clinic. I can help them realize they are not alone, that there is a network of providers here to support them.


Week 3 has gone really well! Something that I’ve definitely grown to appreciate this week is the complexity of community partnerships and the vast network of organizations that make up specific coalitions or collaborations. Since my direct supervisor is actually the Community Mobilization Coordinator, or basically the person in charge of our various community collaborations, I’ve been accompanying her on several of her meetings. We’re part of two different transgender alliances, a Baltimore Police Department LGBTQ awareness coalition, a PrEP collaborative (a drug with new funding that can prevent HIV), and most likely several others that I don’t know of yet. Going to these meetings, it’s really exciting to see lots of familiar faces around the table from places like Chase Braxton, Harriet Lane Clinic, etc. My experience with Health Leads left me with the thought that the resource landscape in Baltimore is extremely disconnected, but there’s a great deal of communication that I didn’t know existed between organizations. The different backgrounds coming together in shared goals of LGBTQ and racial justice (as cheesy as that sounds) really gives me hope for a more unified front in what I thought was a more fragmented community.
However, another more jarring realization has been that these various social justice non-profits aren’t always interested in collaboration, and a lot of times this comes down to funding or even ideology differences. Two organizations can be allies for the same cause, yet have completely different target populations and thus stray away from working together. Non-profits, as I remember from orientation, are businesses as well and have their own branding and services to offer the city. Measures of success are extremely important in turn for writing grants, which then ensures future success. Thus, these collaborative are sometimes a double-edged sword in terms of where labor and compensated work time will go. This especially happens when several organizations offer the same services in the same location.
This isn’t to say that I now have a completely different opinion of the non-profit world and that I now equate them with big corporations. However, the business model of funding and growth will be relevant in any setting, and realizing this has given me a greater appreciation for how regardless of this mindset, the focus will always come back to serving the community and their mission statement. In Star Track, one of the greatest things to watch is how adamantly they stick to this, especially in terms of being inclusive, what language they use, and what images they’re portraying. A lot of thought goes into everything Star Track puts out and I’m excited to see how this will play into all we do for Pride in the coming weeks.



This week was different from the last few because it was National HIV testing week. So instead of keeping busy with organizational work, everyone in the office focused their attention on getting as many people tested for HIV as possible.
Because I'm not yet certified to conduct the rapid HIV test, I set up camp in the lobby doing outreach and recruiting people to be tested. Though it got kind of boring by the end of the week, I enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to interact with the clients and patients of Chase Brexton, the people I had been addressing letters to for the last week or two. I was also able to do some outreach and encourage people to get tested and explain the benefits of regular testing as well as the mechanics behind the rapid HIV test. I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to display what I know and get to leave my cubicle for a few days. One minor downside that I saw in this week was that there was little instruction and guidance. I was stationed in the lobby by myself to set up a greeting table and told to tell people about HIV testing week. I enjoyed the freedom to be creative and do whatever I wanted, but it also would have been nice if someone had checked up on me once in a while or gave me some pointers so I wasn't just sitting alone doing my own thing downstairs from 9-5. From this week, I've gathered that I much rather work in an open setting interacting with people than in a cubicle behind a computer. It was a great time getting to know some of the patients who get treated at Chase Brexton and see them beyond their name, address, medical stats etc... I look forward to having more opportunities to interact with more people, to do more outreach and to learn more about Chase Brexton and its clients.
One thing that I really hope to find in the coming weeks is something that challenges me or brings me out of my comfort zone. So far, it has been a very low-key internship and Emily has been very "chill" with all of my tasks, but I have yet to do something or be in a situation where I can feel challenged or excited. If there's one thing I look forward to the most for the rest of the internship, its to find something or be in a position where I can feel slightly uncomfortable.


Man, this week was a lot.

I feel as though my blog posts are usually written more passively, as a fly on the wall whose gaze is colorlessly observant of my comings and goings at the clinic. More often than not my personal reflections tend to comfortably skim the surface of my experiences, carefully avoiding the intimate or less than graceful. But, as I left the city to enjoy a weekend with family and began reflecting on my week, I felt as though my walls of cautious inhibition were slowly crumbling, wading away as quickly as my naïve understanding of non-profit work.

Before I began work at the clinic, my perception of nonprofits was shallow at best. I had this rosy view of what these incredibly hard working people do, believing that besides a few bumps in the road, they would be able to serve and empower everyone that needed help. I believed deeply that every institution, whether it be public or private, was built with a foundation of morality that would support the work that non-profits engage in. I believed that modern public policy aimed at aiding the less fortunate, even if at times divisive and worthy of debate at a philosophical level, was written to be inclusive and protective of all people. I believed that in this day and age, common hurdles for organizations built to serve communities would be financial and logistical, not institutional and systemic.

There is something about not being able to aid someone who comes to you for help that makes your blood boil, your heart ache, and your soul search. At one of our health fairs, we had a young man come to us the desk and ask for help in finding health insurance. My supervisor and I, incredibly excited, immediately began the process of applying for Medicaid for the young man. I started asking him the basic qualification questions, almost resting my ears to the answers because of a foolish eagerness to get him signed up and insured. I got all the way up to the second question in the process before my supervisor stopped me. The young man was under 18 years of age so he would not be able to sign up without a legal guardian there to fill out a primary application.
My privileged world view, however, was unfazed as I quickly began asking him for his personal information to get him and his parent into the clinic to finish the application. It was then that he indicated that he hadn’t spoken to his parents in years, and he would not be able to contact them to get insurance. Since he was not orphaned or under the supervision of a social worker, he would not qualify for any special status. He would have to come to the clinic when he turned 18 in order to get any insurance or see a doctor. There was nothing we could do for him and he left, leaving no contact number or hope of future connection.

That was it.

Instances similar to this one happened multiple times during the week and the same empty and frustrating feeling of ineptness engulfed my soul. We were eventually able to help some of these individuals through diligent, persistent, and brilliant work by my colleagues, but others still fell through the cracks. These people were categorically denied the human right to healthcare and the right for their stories to be considered in the pages and pages of public policy that govern our land.

Man, this week was a lot.





This week, my supervisor and I joked about how sometimes we actually enjoy doing tasks such as talking to the city government about reducing a stormwater remediation fee, something that involves being put on hold for what feels like an eternity, because when you complete it, you do feel a strong sense of accomplishment. I felt that sense of accomplishment a lot this past week-I am very nearly done with my first large project, I helped out with a grant project, completed a handful of odd jobs that my supervisors were way too busy to get to, and really felt like I was getting into the swing of things in the office. I look forward to the next half of this internship to keep moving forward.


“Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if we’re one of these fleeting urges or movements that you see throughout history”, my organization’s founder articulated in this week’s staff meeting.

Oh, did I mention that my director is a rabbi? Not just a rabbi, a female rabbi. Nina Beth Cardin, founder and director of the Baltimore Orchard Project, is one of the wisest women I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

However, in this instance I do not share her concern about whether our organization will fall to this common theme with movements. In fact, I HOPE that we are one of these fleeting movements. Not fleeting in the sense that our work and purpose will be forgotten, but instead that our movement becomes incorporated into modern society and thought.

From my perspective, if you no longer have to exist as a movement then one of two things happens to it:
1. That movement dies.
2. That movement becomes part of life.
This is the harsh reality of any group of people working together to advance their shared ideas in hope of change and a strong public awareness.

I do completely sympathize with the stress and pressure (that she really talking about) of what our organization is and will be (I’m just playing devil’s advocate here). However, when I first heard her say this my initial reaction was “don’t we really just want to be a movement, so that one day we no longer have to call it that? Because then one day it becomes natural and commonly accepted into how we exist here on earth”.

So, incase you know nothing about BOP, we’re pretty awesome. We like to keep things simple. We help people plant and steward orchards here throughout Baltimore city. Our weekly staff meetings are not your usual business talk. Instead we make it a weekly study, where we talk about different topics related to working in a non-profit and the environmental sector. However, its more than that. We try to enlighten ourselves by going beyond this confined sector of society.

This week, Nina Beth Cardin brought in an article entitled “Christian Faith and Business: A Story” (by M.L. Brownsberger, I highly recommend reading this to anyone). I was thrown off at first as I have never been a spiritual person, and I didn’t take BOP as a spiritual organization (which it isn’t). Reading and discussing this article with my team really opened my eyes. The past 2 weeks I’ve been slightly frustrated as I don’t feel like I’m always helping the Baltimore community that I am committed to serve. However, it was from this gathering and stimulation that I realized that I am. I was blind to how the culture of BOP fit in to Baltimore.

This article makes a thought provoking point that places do pre-exist us. That pre-existance of Baltimore is both resistance and opportunity. I’ve learned that you cannot just carry out grand plans and initiatives without getting some kind of approval from the greater community. I’ve learned that my organization sticks to maintaining this delicate relationship: “we only go where we’re invited in”.

“The first 5 years last a life time” in someone’s connection with nature. When people want us to help them have a deeper connection with their own “place” whether its Baltimore or nature, we are there. We don’t want to be invited to fit in, we want to help change their sense of place.

This is where I can admit that this is actually something far out of my comfort zone. I have always been a people person. My friends and family love to remind me that I have to sense of personal space, as I love (and tend) to invite myself in to get to know people. I don’t usually do things “simply”. I like being proactive and initiating contact, as its in my nature to do so. You can see why having to wait for someone to reach out to me drives me crazy. But I’m coming to see that it is (no matter how hard it is for me) possible as I am being inculcated into the culture of my organization.

While BOP’s culture is very curious and explorative, it is based on trust in hopes of growth and ultimately a life long impact. I am seeing the convergence of what our organization wants to be and what we are doing, as we live out the identity we seek. In our minds, if we take care of our piece and help others with their own then what better gift can you give?


Peace does not always reign in Peace Camp. On the first day a young boy threw a ball in a girl’s face at recess and she fell backwards onto the ground and hit her head. Then she punched him. Drama abounds as well-- one middle school couple formed and imploded within the first week. Though clever and unique and lovable, our kids are not angels in flower crowns. At our field trip to the pool, one boy was asked to sit on the side of the pool because he punched his brother as we entered. After the tears, he promised he would never do bad things again, and taught me some great hand clap games. A small group formed around me and the boy, jumping and calling to be watched.
“Is your mom picking you up after this?” One girl asked me.
“No, I don’t live with my mom anymore. I just live with my friends” I responded.
“Oh, are you a mom?” She asked after a moment.
“Not quite yet”
“So have you had a crush yet?”
“Want to see me turn into Eleanor Roosevelt?” I asked the campers. I ducked under water and fold my wet hair back next to my forehead and turn slowly to the giggling campers.
“Do someone else!”
“Do Elsa from Frozen!”
“Do me!”
“Teach me to swim!” Many campers commanded while we were at the pool. I am not a skilled swimming instructor, and I am sorry to say that none of those kids were swimming like fish after my hurried lessons. When the little boy who sat out for most of the field trip finally got his time in the pool and asked to be taught how to swim as well, he inexplicably began jumping as high as he could while frantically flapping his hands. In the end he gave up on the water and landed on me, scaled my torso and clung onto me as if I was a lifeboat in the ocean.
“Did I do it?” He asked.
Although we left the pool joking about how we could possibly get paid for this, one of the parents who came for pick-up was particularly thankful that day.
“There aren’t a lot of camps we can take our kids to unless you got…” Jerry surreptitiously rubbed his thumb and first two fingers together. “Thanks for taking the time to do this- it keeps them out of the streets. You should know I’m thankful.”
These kids are strange, they are funny, they are not perfectly behaved, but at Peace Camp they have a safe space to be all of these things. And many of the campers are as aware of this as their parents. In class this week my heart stopped when an eleven year old girl raised her hand and asked,
“Why they always killing black teenagers?” The violence and the pain are not erased or left behind at the door, and it probably won’t be for a long time. But here it is met with love and peace and joy that I hope they can carry with them when they go.




“I rarely leave the Beltway,” Molly, my supervisor, warns a woman asking about the bike trail from Baltimore to Anapolis. She pulls out a few maps anyhow to try to help. Even if Molly doesn’t leave Baltimore often, she knows her way around. In Baltimore, at Rec and Parks programs, she seems to know everybody, and they know her.
There’s a group of three kids that meet us at the Druid Hill Reservoir sometimes that she’s known for a long time-- they even know her daughter. Some explanation as to why we’re at the reservoir- every Wednesday, we lend people bikes to ride around Druid Hill Reservoir in return for their photo ID and an optional donation. Typically, kids need parents to sign bikes out for them, mainly because in the past Rec and Parks has lost bikes by letting kids borrow them without a parent or ID. Molly doesn’t make these three bring parents, mainly because as far as I know in all the time she’s known them, their parents haven’t accompanied them to the parks often if at all, they show up consistently and are fairly polite, and all three boys help us out giving people bikes sometimes. They also show interest in bike repair if D, one of the guys I work with on the bike programs, is out with us working on bikes. (I work mostly with a few guys, who I'll call DW, D, and B, who are all great! I'd name them, but they don't work directly with the CIIP- their names aren't on any forms-- and I don't want use their names without permission. Possibly more on them another time).
The other community members we don’t always talk to long, but I’ve started to recognize the people who come every week. Some bring their children, others come alone for a peaceful cruise or a workout around the lake, others are couples or just groups of friends. We get people of all ages and all experience levels. Some-- mainly little boys and some girls-- are experts, and spend most of the time doing wheelies and riding around with no hands. Others haven’t been on a bike in years. The current record-holder for number of years without riding said that she hadn’t ridden a bike in forty years. She then proceeded to get on one of our bikes and ride six laps around the lake--about 10.2 miles--giving new meaning to the phrase “It’s like riding a bike: you don’t forget.” It was awesome. If someone isn’t so quick to pick biking up for the first time, or perhaps for the second, Molly also teaches people to ride if we have enough staff and enough time.
Maybe it’s because the bikes are free, or maybe it’s because when people come to the park to ride a bike, they come to relax and have fun. Either way, the vast majority of the community members I’ve met working Rides Around have been extremely friendly and awesome. As someone who gets stressed out about talking to people sometimes, I was surprised to find that it’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Once we had a long conversation with a couple about being sovereign citizens. Another time a group of women around my age were talking to me about their elementary school teacher. Yesterday, a woman’s husband was testing B’s and my Spanish. It’s true that not everyone is friendly, but it’s always minor stuff: once when I gave a woman back her ID, I asked her first name to make sure it was hers and she gave me such a look that DW, the fellow who was working with me at the time, started laughing. “The way she looked at you!”



Last summer, I struggled to find thirty-five hours of work to do around the office where I worked. This summer, for the second week in a row, Andrew and I have each worked well over fifty. I share this not to play into the pity-demanding, abhorrent boasting of work so common of the library-dwelling, all-nighter-pulling Hopkins students, but rather to shed some light on what some non-profit work can require.

Emails from volunteers, home from their work, pour in after 6PM filled with questions about how their Thread student is going to be able to get to work the following day and explanations about how their student’s cousin’s getting shot kept them from work the previous day. The sheer volume of communication and paper surrounding some 90 students and their roughly 45 worksites is staggering.
Andrew and my work constitutes of 30% crisis management, 30% running around Baltimore finding students and speaking with employers, 30% navigating the bureaucratic and disorganized system devised for paying our students and 10% sending communications. I find myself using many of the skills I have cultivated both at Hopkins and at Milton, yet the stakes have changed radically.

All of the sudden, what I consider “work” has begun to have an impact on people, not tests, scores or grades. ‘Calling for it for the day’ is not counter-weighted by the prospect of losing a few points on an exam, but by a Baltimore City youth student not being able to work their job. Hanging up the proverbial coat for the night means leaving real people waiting and wondering, sometimes in crisis.
The long hours and demanding work have started to get to me, and I find myself turning away from activities I love (gardening, exercising, exploring new places) and obligations I have (studying the MCAT, phoning home, and feeding my fish…joking about the fish part, he still gets fed) because I am so tired at the end of the day. In the spare moments, I think about how to optimize this position and wonder if there is a possible world with slight tweaks where the CIIP interns at Thread could possibly have everything under control.

As someone who is headed into medicine, I know that staying at a job that you simply cannot leave because otherwise the work will not get done awaits me in the road ahead. The same counterweight exists for so many types of jobs where real lives are in play. It is not guilt, duty, or obligation, but rather a belief that the work or product is worthwhile and meaningful. Part of me wonders whether certain programs are too ambitious and try to do too many things at once, expanding too fast without the proper infrastructure. I think about how much better I could serve twenty students at the medical campus, rather than forty at 50% capacity. It is tough to know which path is better, the age old quality vs. quantity dispute. I think in my organization’s perspective for summer jobs, quantity takes the cake in terms of priority. If getting more teens jobs gnaws into effort spent making sure that all jobs are amazing experiences, that is a bullet I am willing to bite.

Nevertheless, I am reluctant to resign to choosing the lesser of two evils. A big realization for me—which Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million contribution to NYC schools producing no significant improvement in outcomes helped hammer home—is that simply adding money to the equation does not work. When I think to what has me and Andrew working around the clock at Thread, a large majority of it can be attributed to lack of proper infrastructure, difficulties in actually getting in touch with individuals, and bureaucratic inefficiencies designed to “protect” government money.

Organization has proven to be the key determinant in much of our successes with institutional disorganization attributable to most of our shortcomings. While our main focus now is the students, we are lucky to have a week after their internship ends to reflect and restructure. Currently writing down every source of frustration and every problem as it comes up, we hope to be able to reform how the summer internship program is run with our team from the ground up, establishing protocols and timelines for next year which we hope will ameliorate some of the potential issues we have encountered first hand. If we do our job well, not only might Thread only need one CIIP intern next summer, but that intern will be able to prioritize both the quantity and the quality of student jobs.


You sure do meet some interesting characters on the Charm City Circulator. People from all walks of life take it: construction workers, nurses, tourists, interns, nearly anyone you can think of. I mean, what’s not to like about the Circulator? It’s free, convenient, and fairly timely (I actually have a bone to pick with whoever made that darn NextApp because sometimes it’ll say a bus is scheduled to come, but it turns out it’s “Out of Service”. And just like that, you’re stuck waiting for another twenty minutes for a bus that’ll be twice as crowded. I digress.).
Besides this past week, I don’t think I’ve ever taken the Circulator, or rather, and form of public transportation for five consecutive days (including the JHMI, which I don’t count as public transportation). And it was pretty amusing to say the least.
On Tuesday, I had a rather interesting experience on the Circulator. It was around 7:30 in the morning and what seemed like the normal crowd of commuters and community members was boarding the bus around Station North. However, two of the last people to board were women who may have been high on some sort of drug. I assumed as much when one of them muttered that it felt almost as if she was on ecstasy. They both stumbled to the back of the bus and the bus took off. In the middle of the ride, one of the women began to sing very loudly “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…”
Her friend interrupted her, “Stop singing. You’re making a scene.”
“Shut up!”
I couldn’t really see them, but I could see the reactions of everyone around that area of the bus. Most people stared awkwardly to the side and a couple of folks gave off a cold stare directed at the ladies. Less than five minutes later, the two women got off the bus; the same lady who said she felt like she was on ecstasy, sort of stumbled or fell onto a random guy sitting in his seat. Immediately, the woman’s friend grabbed her as she quickly apologized and departed the bus.
Looking back, the scene seemed like something that came out of a sitcom. However, it wasn’t. It was real life and may or may not be the reality that Baltimoreans have to face when they take public transportation every day. When I went to work shortly afterwards, I realized that nearly all of the students in the MERIT internship relied upon public transportation. It made me think about possible difficulties that the students might be facing by relying on public transport like bus problems, inaccurate schedules, or even loud passengers. Taking the Charm City Circulator also exposed me to more of the communities around Baltimore. As we pass through various neighborhoods every day, I find it interesting to see the population that get on and off at each stop and think about where they may be going. All in all, it’s something I’m looking forward to learning about more and experiencing in the next few weeks.


“Damn, you’re the most scared but confident person I’ve ever met, Sandtown.”
Laughing along, I return Davon’s fist bump and together, we exit the computer lab – I have just finished teaching my first computer class.
Backpedal exactly an hour and a half – it’s 30 minutes before my class is supposed to start, and Davon is one of the earliest students to arrive. At this point, the fear and nervousness I am feeling is palpable in my expression, and my usual chattiness is replaced by a shaky “hey.”
He seems confused this sudden 180 in my demeanor. I explain to him that this is my first time ever teaching a class, that I am terrified I will fail and flounder and every one of the students – people I’ve been getting to know better and better over the course of two weeks – will be there to watch it happen. These panicked thoughts run rampant in my mind – I feel sick to my stomach and consider calling the whole thing off. Why did I think I could ever do this?
And then it’s 11:30 and class begins. I launch into my rehearsed introduction – I can actually hear my voice wavering with every word. Davon shoots me a thumbs up from the back row. I smile back a little. As the hour progresses, my words come a little more easily. I become way more relaxed. I start to feel comfortable – and then I start to enjoy myself. The class must notice my change – they laugh at my (pretty lame) jokes and answer and ask questions.
Before I know it, class has ended, and as the students file out, Davon’s words ring loudly in my mind. For someone who has known me just short of two weeks, he’s figured me out pretty well.
People experience fear each and every day – fear of doing the wrong thing, of being perceived poorly by others, of failing. But for me, the fear I experience extends past a typical emotional response, and is a deeply internalized state of being.
As a child of hard-working and well-intentioned Indian immigrants, I was raised with the strict belief that there is only one definition of success. I was told by my community that reading books was a waste of my time, that the stories I dreamt up and wrote were useless. That if I did not grow up to be a doctor, my life was meaningless. I don’t mean to sound like I’m criticizing or admonishing the culture that raised me – I just want to make it clear that my fear has its roots in the insecurity that my passions and dreams will be deemed invalid.
And yet, despite my fear of being told that the things I care about are dumb and my interests unworthy of attention, my confidence in doing what I love grows every day. At HEBCAC YO, I’ve discovered a newfound sense of comfort. I find myself being able to say out loud, “Yes, I love teaching. Yes, I want to teach and I care about education and I want to work in education after I graduate.”
This may not sound like a big deal – after all, I’m a senior in college, so shouldn’t I already be comfortable talking about my future plans out loud? But for me, this ability to openly discuss my love for teaching – without fear of retribution or condescension – is completely newfound.
For the first time, I am not afraid to say that I love teaching. I am confident when I teach – I love breaking concepts down in a way that people and I love the euphoric glow of understanding that lights up a student’s face.
My fear has kept me guarded, closed-off from expressing how I really feel and what I really think. My fear is what’s kept me from telling my mom, until very recently, that I’m not pre-med (and haven’t been for two years now). My fear of exposing my innermost self inhabits my daily life still – I couldn’t even bring myself to share my blog posts from the first two weeks of this program. But I like to think I’m getting better – I am still afraid of expressing myself truthfully, but I’m pushing myself to do what makes me uncomfortable.At least I can now be described as “scared but confident” instead of just scared.


This week I conquered a fear of mine. I ate alone in public for the first time ever. Does this seem silly to you? It is. But being lonely scares me.


I also think that the best way to conquer a fear is to just do the thing that scares you. So on Wednesday I excuse myself for lunch and walk a block and a half into Red Emma’s. Alone.


I am fully prepared for this tip-toeing out of my comfort zone. I arrive with a stocked bag. I have my phone so I can text people and look busy. I have my notebook in case I feel the need to pretend to be jotting ideas or lists down. And I have No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy on my tablet so I can finish reading it for a book club the next day. I’m 44 pages into the 320 page book so this seems like the call.


It turns out I need none of these things. I order my falafel (the closest thing to meat I can get in this vegetarian/vegan establishment) and sit down and I. Can’t. Stop. Watching.

I can’t stop watching everything happening at once here. There’s the two former college roommates grabbing lunch in front of me, one with her husband and young daughter, the other with her (I think) affected British accent. There’s the skinny man with long dreads and a top hat chasing after his curly haired son. The woman in the bandana reading intently, alone at a long table. Everyone different but somehow giving off the same vibe, except me in my J Crew shirt and J Crew shorts. I zone out and consider my week as I stare blankly at the orange “Spend Your Summer at Oriole Park” sign in the distance. Good week. Sat in on some more meetings. Made some contacts at tech companies by accident. Ate a lot of Laffy Taffys in the office. Charlotte took me out to lunch with her friends – all less than ten years older than me but I felt young, so young. I return to looking around the café and realize I am the only one watching everything here. Everyone else is busy with something.


People keep peering in through the windows, their cupped hands adding vignette shadows to the edges of their view but perhaps the middle is quite clear. No one inside is paying attention to the outsiders but they are paying attention to us. Some pace from one side of the corner to the other and peer. They pace. They peer. What are they seeing when they look in? I keep track of a woman with fuschia hair and a piercing in each cheek. She peers 7 times before she is whisked off by a bus.

North Avenue is becoming gentrified, they say.


My bosses call Station North a “reverse city”. It’s a hipster haven at night, with crowd favorites like The Wind Up Space and The Crown, and attracts MICA students and Hopkins students and all who fall in between. In the daylight it seems scary, they say, because there is a Methadone clinic nearby. But they say if you don’t have meth, you will not have a problem, you are of no use to the North Ave characters.


Who will the North Ave characters peer in on without us? Who would we forget about as we eat our vegan food and read our radical books and escape from the world in an entirely different way from that of these outsiders who are not quite so lucky?


Amidst the vibrant works of student art that decorate the school, there are signs that hang above the water fountains saying “Do not drink.” Although I know that the problem of lead poisoning seriously affects Baltimore, and although I see students line up to receive cups of water from Deer Park dispensers instead of drinking from the fountains, this week I found myself taking time to seriously think about the ways schools need to grapple with these types of a realities on a daily basis. After asking my boss, the principal of Liberty Elementary, about the water fountain signs, he responded that yes, it was due to lead in the pipes. At this point, the presence of lead has been so persistent and so unlikely to be addressed that it has almost become a mere description that one could use for the school. The school’s walls are yellow, the the library is on the second floor, the pipes have lead. He continued by saying the shittiest part about the situation was that, for the longest time, the administration knew about the lead pipes and did not tell the schools.

At this week’s Bites session, we learned about the school-to-prison pipeline. One topic we addressed was how schools should be concerned with the trauma that young children experience, often due to poverty and turbulent home lives. We also discussed how schools can become a place of trauma, especially for black and Latinx students. Many schools now have police who carry guns roaming the hallways. Rather than creating a sense of safety, the presence of police transform school into a dangerous space. As an elementary school, no police patrol the hallways. Even so, it has been important to consider the ways that the system has underserved and harmed so many of Baltimore’s poor, black students. From overcrowded classrooms, to leaks in the ceiling, to poisoning drinking water, it’s unacceptable that students are the ones who suffer. Liberty Elementary is a wonderful place, there is no denying. The young students may not even register the implications of these “Do not drink” signs. Even so, it is still a daily reality they face. The system is culpable in failing to protect poor, minority students and contributing to unsafe and, at times, traumatizing learning conditions.

The principal typically drives me home after the day is done. A couple of days ago, he received a call and allowed me to listen in as he spoke with this woman on speaker. She was a fellow principal from another Baltimore public school. She asked him for advice regarding a letter she was about to send to the school’s families and neighborhood. Just that day, gunshots had been heard right outside the school. Just a few days prior, also in the school’s neighborhood, three people had been shot. Thankfully, neither of these incidents involved children getting hurt. This principal was mainly concerned with ensuring that students and families were both informed and equipped to move forward in these types of situations. Throughout the course of this conversation, it became increasingly clear that a school’s response to events like this are crucial. Both principals knew that simply sending out a letter saying “We’re trying our best, we’re hoping more police will be around the neighborhood” does not sooth any fear or anxieties. These are clearly empty words. My boss suggested that the other principal reach out to local churches and homeowners associations to potentially organize a group of community members who will coordinate shifts and stand watch in these areas in the future. This allows the school to demonstrate a level of proactivity and, hopefully, provide families with more peace of mind. After the phone call ended, my boss explained that schools often feel “at the mercy of their neighborhood and at the mercy of violence.” As a result, schools assume an inactive role in the community. Instead of remaining resigned students’ trauma, though, schools can participate in the healing of a community. This requires the school to critically engage the community and let families know that the school is invested in working with the community to not only educate, but also promote the emotional and psychological wellbeing of its children.

I had a hard time writing this week's post, and I apologize that it's so disjointed. Ultimately, being at Liberty and learning about how schools operate, I better understand the importance of schools being involved in the healing and recovery process for students, even when external forces or institutional failures seem to make this task impossible.



I'm realizing how important connections are with each week of CIIP. When I originally decided to work with BSHRC, I never expected so many people I knew to have worked with BSHRC in the past. This week I met with people of various backgrounds including doctors, masters and PhD students, policy managers, and health department workers who all had a current or former connection with BSHRC and especially my boss Mark Sine. These connections helped me gain a research position, entrance into a class I want to take in the fall, and other opportunities. Seeing how much BSHRC meant to the people I met made me really appreciate the work my boss does. At times I wonder if he's really engaging or not with the community around him and it will seem like all he does is stare at his computer for long periods of time. However, having met his various colleagues and people who have gained experience from him, I realize that everything is not as it seems when you meet some people. It might just be that my personality, being a rather extroverted person, colors my perception and expectations of what someone who is impacting the city in a positive way looks like. I realize that my boss isn't super extroverted or an in your face kind of guy. He lets his work speak for him in a quiet yet effective manner and I think thats an admirable quality. A lot of people I know would want all credit for their accomplishments and the things they do in the city to be extremely public. However, unlike other people my boss leads by the example of working diligently but quietly in the shadows while making large and effective change in the city and it has been a wonderful thing to witness.


This week, I became more accustomed to how I fit into the workplace here. I have been calling clients on my own now, and I feel a lot more confident in my ability to relay advice and guide tenants in the right direction. I has been extremely valuable for me to learn common practices that landlords use to exploit their tenants. I have also been doing considerable research on the Rent Court legislation, and this has provided me with insight into how we can reform a broken system, that once sought to defend the rights of low-income tenants but has succeeded in evicting them. Learning about this legislation and being a part of it has been amazing, and I can't wait to see what more I have to learn about housing policy and landlord-tenant law, and how both on the ground and policy changes can work together to achieve a common goal. I have also been a part of the effort to get 10,000 signature by August 8 to get a Housing Trust Fund for Baltimore city. PJC has dedicated to a certain number of signatures and I have been reaching out to our networks to try and obtain these. Overall, each week has been getting better as I have been getting more accustomed to how I might be able to make a contribution to this organization and the effort for affordable housing in Baltimore in general.




I could not imagine police officers patrolling the hallways of my school while I am in class. I could not imagine one of my classmates getting into a fist fight with another one of my peers. I also could not imagine my school recommending me to be arrested, instead of sending me to mediation. As someone who wants to be an attorney, I was initially shaken because I realized that my job would be to defend these kids who have been recommended for arrest by their school. And while I may be able to help get their case dismissed, it does not change the fact that they were arrested in the first place. However, I realized that attorneys do not only change lives in the courtroom. One of my supervisor's coworkers put me on a project to collect data on the school to prison pipeline. She uses that data when she meets with the school board in Baltimore in order to discuss policy changes in terms of law enforcement within schools. Her meetings with the board have directly caused some policy changes within Baltimore City Schools, and I am grateful that I have some part, however tiny, in helping my coworker do that.


I have a passion for re-entry efforts targeted toward helping formerly incarcerated individuals return to their communities. It is important to provide for second chances after an individual has served his or her sentence and spent time developing him or herself. Throughout this week, I have had the chance to aid in the re-entry efforts of two individuals whose cases are under consideration by our division. First, I have been helping to draft a Motion for Modification of Sentence, which, if granted by a judge, could lead to a client getting released earlier than anticipated. Second, I finished a draft of a collection of materials designed to assist a client as he goes before the Maryland Parole Commission. Each of these projects focuses on the importance of a cohesive re-entry plan for returning citizens; the motion and the packet of parole materials will serve to convince a judge or the parole commission of the efficacy of the client’s re-entry plan. I am excited to work on these projects because I can have a direct impact in assisting a client in returning to his or her community. It challenges my persuasive writing ability and my desire to assist each in crafting that re-entry plan. One factor that I find particularly troubling in the realm of re-entry efforts is housing. Barring the presence of family member who is willing to help, many of these individuals lack a home or an affordable apartment to which they can return. While researching transitional housing options throughout Maryland, I found that the overwhelming majority of transitional housing designed for formerly incarcerated individuals is centered in Baltimore. While I’m happy to be a part of a community so accepting of reformative efforts, I find it troubling that a similar focus on re-entry exists in lesser status throughout the state. I spoke with a representative of a group called “Prince George’s House,” a transitional housing organization that focuses on ex-offenders located in Prince George’s County. When I asked where else I should call to find transitional housing options in Prince George’s County, I was told that theirs was one of very few options. I would hope to see a greater emphasis on housing throughout the state, so that when men and women leave prison or jail, they have numerous options through which they can convince arbiters like a judge that their re-entry plan is a safe one. I was happy, however, to be able to contribute to the re-entry efforts of the Office of the Public Defender by working alongside both attorneys and social workers. I hope to do the same when I have a platform as a working professional in the future.


For the past few months, FreeState Legal and Equality Maryland has been working on this merger celebration that happened yesterday on the 30th. But really, it’s in the last month that most of the work has been done- I know, I was here. All of the scrambling to find checks for the caterer and A/V guy, hours of cross-checking the guest list to make the master list, and prickles of alcohol marketing research to come up with the perfect cocktail names (Vibrant Venable Vodka and Red, White & Blue Jay were the winners!). That’s what it’s been like for me. Staring into a computer screen, the clicks of my very loud mouse, and the droning of the desktop tower. The clattering of heels as I shuffle to gather volunteers to hand them donation clipboards, veggie sandwich in hand, and hair looking better than ever. Sitting in on meetings with the event planner to call the baker, the violinist, and the photographer. Everything had to run smoothly. A highly-respected organizations’ lifeline was at stake, and we needed to raise money to keep it going.

Yesterday, I arrived at the Baltimore Museum of Industry (the venue) promptly at 3PM – which was 2 ½ hours before the event would begin. We arrived early to set up the VIP reception area with high-tables adorned in alternating magenta and indian ocean teal tablecloths, a champagne station, and a highly-esteemed violinist. The rooms was flashing lights, neon signs, walls painted in colors that not even the rainbow can stand. Fast forward 3 hours and the room would be packed with more people than you could imagine possible, with charming music that melted worries and cured sadness, with chatter and an unnecessary amount of hors d’oeuvres. In the main room, it was like a kid’s dream come true: vintage ads depicting a cartoon war tank, a replica of a mini-mariner plane and screens playing a loop of propaganda movies.

Mayors, delegates, attorneys, pricipals and deans, and countless non-profit managers and workers were there. Judge Carrion and Judge White, Del. Madaleno, Joanne Rosen, Alfredo Santiago, Lois Feinblatt. They were all there, and I met them all. I have to tell you, I’d been admiring plenty of these people from afar for quite a while- people I could only dream of meeting, shaking hands with, and laughing with. But it happened. And I am so lucky!

And it’s difficult to describe what it was like- you had to be there. The space was so open, maybe because it overlooked the bay or maybe because the ceilings were exposed. Everyone was standing around, meeting new people, and chatting with old friends in between bites of cupcake and sips of dry Italian champagne. There were waiters walking around with plates of food, passing out bundles of goodness to all who smiled. I ate at least 10 chocolate whoopee pies. There were babies at every corner, their giggling lightening up the space and instilling a calmness in a sea of chaos- well, the event wasn’t chaotic, but my mind was going at about 100 mph.

And then the speeches began. Saida beginning with a poem to commemorate the lives lost during the Orlando shooting that moved everyone in the room. A moment of silence so sharp it could cut a steel pole. Opening remarks by Board President Jessie Weber (whose baby is the cutest sack of flour around), followed by a beautifully-made video (link here: that brought the room to attention with its stories of how FreeState Legal and Equality Maryland have impacted the community and where we need to go, continuing with a speech from my supervisor Patrick who ten revealed our name, mission, vision, and logo. We are now FreeState Justice as a homage to Equality Maryland’s past (it used to be called Free State Justice) and as a move towards a comprehensive justice-oriented organization unlike anything seen before.

We ended up raising over $70,000 and couldn’t be happier. We couldn’t be happier for the same-sex parents who can adopt children, for the trans people of Baltimore who can change their name, for the LGBTQ teens who can feel safer in their homes and at schools, and for the nation who has one more partner working towards LGBTQ inclusivity and justice. Because that’s what we really want, a lived equality and justice for all LGBTQ peoples. We all deserve to live safely and with dignity. We all deserve equality.

I look forward to working with FreeState Justice for the next few weeks and to see how it grows over the next couple of years. I can’t wait to hear more people discussing LGBTQ issues, standing up for their neighbors, and living proudly as queer. I can’t wait to experience my lived equality, because, working as hard as these people do, I’m sure it’s not far into the future.

They tell you it’s all about the journey and not the destination. I’m not sure where that got started and why we have to choose between the two. It’s not like when you’re eating an Oreo you have to choose whether to eat the cookie or the cream, right? And while I do love the journey, the hours of work behind the product, the learning, the mistakes, and more mistakes, the product is just as sweet.


Freedom is surprisingly scary, ironically enough for an intern working in criminal justice. At OPD freedom, in the form of release from detention, is frightening due to potential flight risk of a client, or the state of a client's home life that leave you with the inevitable feeling that you will be seeing them on special arraignments again in a few weeks time. As zealous advocates for the expressed interests of our clients, attorneys at my office have to ask for release of their clients should their clients ask for it. It is a core tenant of the client centered approach that OPD takes, and it means that even if our attorneys fear our clients will slip up or flee, they must still attempt to persuade the court to release our client.

On a much more mundane level, my particular form of freedom came in the form of a boss on vacation. For two days I was left to perform tasks given to me by other attorneys at the office, or projects left by my boss. Thankfully I was able to find ways to fill time, from reading a motion to reconsider shackling one of the office's clients in the courtroom, based on brand new case law only weeks old, to reading through accumulated files and filling out memorandums about them. Browsing these files, I was awed by the amount of trust placed in attorneys and their assistants by clients. The contents of a case file often contain information of the most sensitive nature, from criminal histories that spell out a client's past, to medical discharges and diagnoses that describe a client's present condition, to evidence and pending charges that will come to shape a client's future.

These past few weeks have shown me that I very much enjoy researching case law and attempting to apply it to cases, so the opportunity to freely explore both new case law and new cases was welcome. The lack of structure was strange at first, but it allowed me to interact more with other attorneys in the office, attorneys with different styles and philosophies on practicing law than my supervisor. My coworkers have welcome myself and my fellow intern wholeheartedly, something I could not be more grateful for. My greatest fear for a summer internship is to spend my time getting coffee and dry cleaning for my coworkers. Although I have a fair amount of filing, I have not gotten a single cup of coffee for anyone. To the contrary, plans are even in place to go to an Orioles game with several members in the office. There is a kind of camaraderie in the office, built on everything from shared exasperation over the actions of overzealous State's Attorneys and Magistrates to fantasy baseball to shared food in the lunch room. Everyone there is on the same side, fighting for our clients, flawed though they may be, the children of Baltimore.




A youth worker wearing a fresh turquoise Art @ Work shirt reluctantly approaches a man sitting on a stoop on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The man sitting on the stoop is Tony, an avenue character who I’ve done my best to think of as an ally over this past few weeks. When he’s sober, he’s high maintenance, but when he’s drunk, he’s temperamental.

The youth worker gives me a searching glance and I nod in assurance; Yes, we are going to interview everyone we meet today, including this guy.

“Excuse me Sir, my name is Travon and I’m with Jubilee Arts down the street” says the youth worker, stumbling through the canvassing script he’s rehearsed for the past two hours. After rehashing the script with fluid confidence just minutes earlier, Travon now delivers his lines with an uneven cadence, as if he’s walking on a giant jigsaw puzzle that’s coming apart as he takes each step. It's interesting to see the youth workers reflecting some of the same discomfort that I experienced earlier during my first week on the job.

Travon collects himself and bleats: “I’m wondering, what inspires you?” -- preemptively delivering one of the final canvassing questions. He’s trying to clean the fish before he’s even caught it.

I step forward and chime in to provide backup: “We’re out here asking members of the community what they’d like to see on the murals we’ll be painting this summer. Do you have anything in mind, Tony?”

Tony’s yellow, bloodshot eyes search upward to meet mine. “I told you already, I don’t really care …” he answers before punctuating his indifference with a request for “naked people.”


Tony then returned his attention to the quart or so of amber liquid he’d been sipping from a plastic water bottle.

My relationship with Tony has been frustrating to say the least. Last week, he was helping me get contracts signed and singing praises about the mural program, but he's been different this week. I couldn't explain why.

Community canvassing didn’t start on the best note, but after some trial and error the young people and I found a few people who were willing to talk to us more constructively.

“What inspires you the most about your neighborhood, what do you want the rest of the world to know about Upton?” asked Travon, audibly more confident after having talked to five or six people.

“Maybe the history, maybe like what this neighborhood used to be like and how some of that still comes through today. Y’all should paint something colorful and positive, anything really, just not no Freddie Gray.”

After a dozen or so interviews, the Youth Works kids and I started hearing the same set of answers repeated: voices asking for a mural depicting positivity, history, faith, and neighborly resilience. We aggrandized and agglomerated these voices into a common voice of the Upton community to guide our hands as we design the mural.

As the mural design came together over the course of the week, I became palpably more excited. Having worked intensely on the logistical side of the project for a few weeks, it’s been really rewarding to see a creative and community-oriented project come together around that work.

But there’s no place for ego here; while I’m proud of the place I’ve had in the project thus far, the design process has been one of close collaboration and reconciliation of diverse ideas. Ignacio, the mural artist, strives to derive his design for the mural holistically, working in input from community interviews, the youth workers, and his two fabulous interns. Thus, at the end of the summer, I’ll be able to point to specific design elements that I suggested this week that made their way into the mural, but I’ll be moreso honored to see them integrated with the input of others.

Ultimately, the nature of the project itself embodies the message that we want the mural to convey: it takes more than an individual to transform a city block.


Youth filmmakers crowded the room. Some stood between lights, atop of desks, and one even nestled between the legs of a tripod. The blinds were drawn and a black curtain blocked out the doorway. Cameras and lights encircled a T made of black tape on the floor, marking where the next student would stand. Thursday we reviewed and practiced lighting techniques with the youth workers during their first week on the job,
"Cameras capture light, all you see is light on the screen. Without the right light you don't capture the right image" David, one of the instructors, explains before we dive into video tutorials and examples of three point lighting. We worked to create and keep the axis of action in line, ensuring viewers wouldn't become disoriented by the different camera angles we hoped to capture.
This group of ten students are people with whom I will be working for throughout the summer and I'm excited for it. They are all talented and already have a background with Wide Angle. They are already creating impressive projects and asking questions I'm not always sure how to answer. Working with them will keep me on my toes and show me other creative ways to edit a piece.