Quality of life or preservation of life: which is more important? This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. On Tuesday, Sully – an emergency trauma nurse who is also volunteering at the Shepherd’s Clinic this summer- was sharing with me how in the emergency department, medical staff are often so focused on saving patients’ lives that they tend to disregard the potential long-term damage and suffering they cause patients. Here’s an example. Sully once helped resuscitate a deceased older patient who was rushed into the emergency room by his family. While doing so, the emergency staff had broken several of the patient’s bones in his upper body. The staff also put the patient on several drugs that shunted blood away from the patient’s extremities towards his core in order to keep his major organs running. As a result, the patient’s extremities over time began to atrophy and he developed wet gangrene in his limbs. In addition to all of this, the patient could no long breathe on his own due to damage to his respiratory system. The patient stayed alive for several more months, but he slowly grew bitter. This patient was miserable and he wanted to die, but his family wanted to keep him alive for as long as possible. There was a big family argument and eventually the family of the patient let him go.

When I came back home that day, I asked my apartment mates, both of whom are pre-med, which is more important: quality of life or preservation of life? Well, sort of. I actually asked them if they were doctors would they support physician assisted suicide, but framed it in the context of the quality of life versus preservation of life debate. During the discussion they raised some great questions like, Who has the right to end a life? How much control should an individual have in that individual’s own fate? Where do societal views of the value of life come from? It was a wonderful conversation that lasted about 2 hours, but we failed to reach a consensus.

On my way to work the next day, the blue jay shuttle driver shared with me, as strange as it may be for a mother to say this, that she would rather her two sons be locked in prison than “out here on the streets because if it ain’t them killing one another it’s the police killing them too. If they die in prison, at least it won’t be for selling CDs, or for reaching for license and registration, or for wearing a hoodie, or in front of their kids.” Her comment was made in response of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. Among other things, her comment made me think of this quality of life versus preservation of life debate. This is how I cope.



There’s this little boy named Jakari, with very big starry eyes…the one that calls me “Mr. Cheese”. He’s the troublemaker, as you can assume; always talking back to camp counselors, always horse playing with the other kids, always running around, and always with the last word. But there is something about the way he annoys you that makes you like him; he smiles when he does it, and makes a little puppy face that makes you feel so guilty for giving him timeout after he purposely mispronounces your name. One day I took the kids out to the basketball court for recess. And as usual, the kids taunted me as I watched them play from my comfortable seat on the park bench. It was 89 degrees that afternoon, that’s all that needs to be said. I stayed on that bench, and enjoyed hearing the kids taunt me under the sweat drops on their foreheads. But then, as always, little Jakari yelled out “Mr. Chi can you teach me some dibble moves?” He even said my name right.
That was on week 2. And after 2 weeks, little Jakari can make 5 layups in a row with my hand in his face…he is about 4 ft tall and I am 6’1. If you don’t know basketball, it’s pretty impressive to see that from an 11-year-old boy. We started with the basics, learning how to make layups from the right and left side of the hoop, using both the right and left hand. That took a while. But, we eventually moved on to passing, and how to use a hop-stop when receiving a pass or driving down the lane. He is a fast learner. I’m excited to see his progression by the end of camp.


Sometime in late October, I sat in my faulty advisor’s office, looked her straight in the eye, and said “I’m done.”

In just a few short weeks I had already been overwhelmed to the point where I just wanted the semester to be over. I didn’t want to deal with my classes or my dance group or my job. I had mentally checked out because I couldn’t take it anymore.

Second semester was better. The winter break gave me a lot of time to spend with my family and my newborn goddaughter which helped me feel more normal. I got a good start in all of my classes, things were looking up for the dance group; it was very much, new semester, new me.

But I realized I was lying to myself. In reality, I was always stressed, always sick, always tired.

Anyway the point is this past year taught me the importance of self-care. I need to take out time for myself to disconnect and see where I am and not feel like it’s wasted time or like I should be doing something else. Everyone needs those few minutes to just get away from the craziness that is being a Hopkins student.

It’s something I’m still struggling to learn and keep up with but I’m grateful for this program because it’s forcing me to go out and explore Baltimore in ways that I can’t during the school year. Every weekend that I’ve been here, I get out of my room as much as I can. I’ve gone to museums, festivals, parks, discovered I really enjoy walking around the city and have even gotten to hang around DC a little bit more.

It all makes life feel more normal.

I think in light of recent events and whatever is to come in the future, it’s good to have that reminder to take care of yourself.

I’ll end it with this:
When I was learning to be an EMT, one of the first things I learned was scene safety. The instructors always told us, when it comes to safety, first you worry about yourself, then your partner, then the patient. After all, how are you going to help someone else if you can’t protect yourself? Then you’ll just end up having two patients: the victim and yourself.



Good Morning, Baltimore

I woke up Sunday, July 3rd at 7:17AM—terribly late considering I had to make it to Penn Station for an 8AM train. Unlike most people who would only be taking off for the holiday, I would be taking off for the whole week in order to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr, with my family. This had been my first Ramadan without my family and my first in Baltimore.

However, as I went home for the first time since May, I realized how much Baltimore had seeped into my daily experience. Yes, I’ve been here for the past three years, but as a student you really don’t have the opportunity to go exploring as much as you like. As a summer intern with MOST, however, I ended up almost all over it. The Maryland Out of School Time office for the city is located in Mount Vernon, just up from Peabody Library. When I chose to intern for MOST, I was excited to work so close to the library—to be in breathing distance of a real-life Beauty and the Beast library. However, when my position changed to site counselor, I learned that I would instead be working just blocks away for Johns Hopkins Hospital, at Commodore John Rodgers. I, like so many of my friends spending the summer doing research, began each morning waiting for the JHMI shuttle hoping to get an actual seat. Then from the hospital walked several blocks from the hospital toward Chester St. I won’t try to glamorize parking lots and construction, saying this was the most beautiful Baltimore I’d ever seen—but it was definitely new. I’d had no reason to walk here, and now I was walking here every day.

Most of my exploring through MOST (I was actually dying to use this), has in fact been through Baltimore City Public Schools. All of the SummerREADS sites are elementary or elementary/middle schools that have newly renovated libraries through the Weinberg Library Project. Although counselors are assigned a single site for the duration of the 6-week program, the weekly staff meetings rotate across each of these Weinberg libraries. So in addition to working at Commodore, each Friday I find myself in a different part of the city, at a different school. There are probably hundreds of ways to explore this city, but I have found this to be one of the most exciting as I walk into new neighborhoods that children many years younger than me know so well and walk in every day. If you’ve ever passed one of these schools then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say I’m only walking in their giant yellow-green footsteps (they’re actually painted on the sidewalks near most of the schools, leading up to the doors).




I really enjoyed the midpoint speaker, especially the principle of Liberty Elementary/Middle. I liked that instead of talking about his personal life and how he ended up in his current position, he used his platform to speak more about the work he has done and continues to do for the community. While I enjoyed Makayla's speech as well, I though it was more individual centered as opposed to the work she is doing around Baltimore. Another reason I liked Joe is because the work he does inspires me to think of innovative solutions to community problems. Recently I have been very interested in IT and the work Code in School does by integrating youth programming with technology. I think the model of tech + educational programming at Liberty Rec and Tech is something that BCPSS should consider more seriously. Instead of having 3/4 police officers in our office, if we used that salary to provide high-tech resources such as a 3-D printer or a Microfab lab would provide a plethora of opportunities for the youth in Baltimore, instead of being criminalized at sites of knowledge.


Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. 5 Dallas Police officers, who were victims of a sniper attack during a peace rally. From every angle, social media bombards us with graphic videos and cutting remarks from all sides about the terrible tragedies that have occurred. And from the protests that have occurred in the days afterward to candlelight vigils that commemorate the murdered, I see expressions of grief, confusion, and anger at the injustices that have robbed people of their loved ones. Amongst that, however, there are also demands for justice from both supporters and opposers of the Black Lives Matter Movement and targetted comments against “the other” party.

Following the events of the past week, I find myself in a situation wherein I am completely at a loss for words. Because there are no words, really, that can capture the amount of hurt and pain that people are experiencing- and as an asian american individual who grew up in a relatively privileged neighborhood, I have to be extremely cognizant of the privileges that I was granted and make a concerted effort to understand the lived experiences of those who encounter violence on a daily basis. But, at the same time, there is an implicit understanding that I will never know what it is like to be an african american living in a system that is fraught with systemic racism. And so how do I speak out against the disparaging remarks made by family members and my adopted siblings in Christ without taking up the space (or speaking on behalf of others) on an issue that I don’t thoroughly comprehend?

I can think of some solutions. I can redirect them to prominent community leaders like Kim and Mikayla, or to the vast quantity of internet resources that are available. I can even encourage them to watch testimonies of people’s experiences with police brutality and institutionalized injustice in the united states to give them a better understanding of the issue at hand. But when they are unwilling to acknowledge the issue and try to see different points of view, then it becomes my responsibility to start a narrative about the underlying issues and encourage them to seek these resources. Because it’s no longer enough to sweep these longstanding issues under the rug, and desperately try to counteract the divisive repercussions of actions that are unjust. And although I still am still doubtful of the amount of influence that I may hold on others, I can’t let that continue holding me back from speaking out. Silence and inaction can kill, and no matter how uncomfortable I may feel about discussing race and power dynamics, I have to continue to pursue these conversations and simultaneously educate myself.


The woman opens the door to find myself and three kids, looking up at her smiling -- clipboards in hand. "Hey! My name is Tarah, I'm here with GRIA, United Workers, and three of your friendly neighbors to talk to residents about their housing concerns. Do you have a minute to talk to us?" How could she not say no with these kids smiling up at her? And of course she doesn't. This summer I am surveying Remington in this exact way. Trying to reach out to residents so that they can voice their housing concerns and unite together in order to come up with community driven solutions. I have been volunteering in this community for quite some time, and as a result know a lot of the kids in the neighborhood. They have now become my posse of mini fair development interns, and it is so much fun, (not to mention very effective--who would close the door on or ignore a cute kid)?! With my team behind me we are taking Remington by storm already making great strides in our community organizing. I have realized that it is this local, grassroots, community organizing that I love and want to do if not for the rest of my life, for the foreseeable future.

Being invited into people's homes, and talking to them (not just about housing, but about their passions and hobbies, jobs and families) I am truly doing something I am impassioned by. I am amazed with how open people are with a total stranger like myself. I have been invited into homes and given tours, one in particular was amazing, as the resident had spent the past 10 years building her home as if it were a piece of art. Her tiles, bricks, pipes were all salvaged from scrap material shops and vintage stores and put together in the most beautiful and creative of ways. Another man, introduced me to his tortoise, Golieth, and his many other exotic pets that the children of course loved (and myself!!).

I have been able to meet so many interesting people, and make strides in canvassing and petitioning that I never thought possible! Love my job!


goal | gōl |noun: the destination of a journey

Dissecting my goals sheet from before the first week of working at Fusion, I can happily say that I’ve reached a beautiful destination for each of them, where or not I still have farther to travel.

I’ve decided to go through my goals and evaluate them one by one. Here goes:

Learn more about Baltimore’s grassroots organizations.
Within the first few days, I spent hours researching the plethora of organizations Fusion partners with. Their focus areas range from workforce development to environment/sustainability to education. I continually learn about amazing Fusion partners. For instance, Joe Manko is the director of Liberty Rec and Tech, which is a Fusion partner. Heber Brown, the founder of Orita’s Cross Freedom School, is also a Fusion partner. It makes Baltimore feel smaller and smaller the more connections I uncover.

Apply insight from this summer to my outlook in life going forward.
I have been exposed to a side of the workforce I had not previously had an intimate relationship with: nonprofits. It’s been a breath of fresh air from the somewhat prescribed track to investment banking that many of the fellow economics majors are on. The extreme dichotomy I see is this: profit-driven businesses and mission-driven businesses. My good friend from high school is working for a prestigious investment bank and works over 60 hours a week. While she finds her work very interesting, it is undeniable that her work is heavily skewed towards the profit-driven. To me, my summer internship is rewarding in a much more holistic way than I imagine investment banking would be for me. Going forward, I think there are ways to merge the mission and profit driven aspects in new ways (B-corporations). I’ve also gotten to be around people who work hard and are extremely passionate and can see the tangible effects of their work in the community around them. Realizing that kind of passion exists is beautiful, and I hope to hold myself to that standard when looking for work after college.

Be a valued member of the Fusion team by contributing something that will be sustained after I’m gone.
I’ve been working on revamping check request forms, which are submitted by partners to the Fusion staff if they want any kind of reimbursement or for Fusion to pay for something they need. I updated the logo on the letterhead, added additional useful fields, and transformed the previously-used Word document format into a dynamic PDF form. For a long time after I’m done, Fusion will use these forms on a daily basis, and hopefully it will make their workflow more seamless. I’m proud of that.

Make meaningful connections with the Fusion staff and fellow CIIP peers.
I’ve bonded with the two fellow New Yorkers in the office and attended a brunch staff retreat at one of the managing partner’s houses. I feel like I decently know the people at Fusion and their personalities. Almost every morning when I show up, I am greeted with a hug from the staff. They make it very clear that I am valued as a worker, but more basically, as a human.

As I’ve approached and recently passed by the midpoint of my journey, I have started to wonder where I’ll end up. Will I have made it as far as expected? Will my path have veered off on detours? Will I ever reach my destination in the first place? When I set these goals at the beginning, I feel like it was kinda a shot in the dark. I wasn’t necessarily the most well equipped to predict my destination. I had little experience of the vast world in front of me and which direction my journey would take me. Now that I’m halfway done, I have a slightly clearer image of what my destination is. In no way will it be a final destination—it will be merely be one stop along the way of the larger journey that is college, growing up, and of the ultimate journey of life.




This past week I had the opportunity to take a step out of my usual routine and represent the Mayor's Office of Human Services (MOHS) as I led my first training session for a small group of service providers who wanted to join the Coordinated Access (CA) system. Although training for the updated system, Coordinated Homeless Response System (CHRS), have yet to be scheduled as CHRS is under final beta testing before replacing Coordinated Access, my supervisor has continued to receive applications to become navigators (employees of the different service providers that work directly with the homeless population to develop their application packet and assists them during the entire housing process). For the past two months my supervisor was unable to schedule the 3-hour training sessions because of her involvement in CHRS beta testing, the development of the LEAD program, preparing the NOFA application, and simply running the Coordinated Access system. However, she noticed how familiar I had grown with CA as I developed a strong grasp of the policies and procedures, the strategies to navigate through the most common snags, and the role of the MOHS as a liaison between the service providers and the housing programs. I ecstatically accepted the offer to lead a session on Wednesday with the opportunity to lead future sessions over the next four weeks depending on how this first training turned out. As I headed out of the office Wednesday, just shy of 1:00 pm, it grew hard to contain my excitement to share what I had learned in the past four weeks with a couple of service providers who wanted to join our team. Yes, the middle-aged men and women were slightly shocked at first that a 20-year old intern was leading their training session but that quickly faded after the initial introductions and my spiel over CA’s system and goals. Within a couple minutes the few of us in the room were engaged in a quasi-conversational, quasi-question and answer format as we proceeded through the 24 page document. I not only left that training with a greater understanding of Coordinated Access, but more importantly, I left with the satisfaction of effectively providing those soon to be navigators with the information they need in order to serve the homeless they come in contact with every day.


Well, driver's ed didn't go exactly as planned.

Better than a 10% turnout, but still...when only 3 out of 9 youth make it to driver's ed for the first week of class, you know that meeting the goal of having 20 youth complete driver's ed is a freakishly difficult task. On top of that, the ones that do go are often late, so... Hopefully, the youth signed up for the next cycle (July 18) will be more consistent with driving class. I have faith!

Seriously though, probably the most difficult thing about what I do is trying not to get caught up in the cycle of every day labor and really invest myself into what I'm doing. Sometimes, the things that I do can become repetitive (and God forbid boring), but it does happen. Actually, that was my biggest challenge this week: making sure today was not just another drop-in. It really puts things into perspective and gives you a newfound respect for people that dedicate their lives to this work: how do you not burn out? That's probably a question I want answered before my time here is up.

In fact, working at YES for the last four weeks revealed a key flaw in me that I had noticed before, but did not take too seriously until now—how easily I burn out and get tired of things. I'm not sure about other people, but it seems after a month or two into things, I tend to lose motivation, forgetting my original drive and the reasons I started things in the first place. If anything, this summer has shown me where I really suck and need to improve (appreciative!).

Nonetheless, I'm honestly glad I can say I look forward to going to work every day; it's not a chore or another thing I need to get over, but something I thoroughly enjoy and care about. YES doing an important work in Baltimore City, and I am incredibly blessed to be a part of it.


After the long holiday weekend and an unfortunate onset of food poisoning, I was not ready to go back to work. I had recurring fevers and headaches, a sore throat, and all I wanted to do was sleep the day away. Going to work and having to interact with clients was the last thing I wanted to do. But I went in and told myself that I would do the best I that I could given my physical condition.

The Wednesday I returned was an exceptionally busy day. Clients were coming in left and right for food bags, birth certificates and state IDs, and many new clients came in to get registered into the system. Because it was such a busy day, the receptionist decided to let me to client intake on my own. Previously, I had only done client intake under the supervision of an experienced staff member, or I had only watched the process from the sidelines. Being able to interview clients and provide them with what they need was a step up from what I had been previously doing.

My first time doing it was very nerve-wrecking, but as I did more and more client interviews, I got more and more comfortable doing it, and I would like to believe that I improved with each interview. I enjoyed doing client interviews a lot and I hope to continue doing them in the future.

During the past month, I knew that I was making a difference in the community. It may be small, but a difference nonetheless since I started interning at the Center. However, I didn’t realize exactly how much of a difference I made until a client, Mr. S, came in. Mr. S was a client that I helped get a birth certificate a couple weeks ago when I sat in on his interview. He came in and said that he got a call from the receptionist that his birth certificate had finally come in. As I went to retrieve his birth certificate, his face lit up. He was grinning from ear to ear and told me, ”This is only the second time I’ve met you, but I’m so extremely grateful for what you’ve done for me. Seriously, thank you.”

This past week was a meaningful time. A month into my internship here at the Franciscan Center, I’ve finally realized how big of an impact my actions make on the clients here, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to help those when they are at their most vulnerable.



This week I spent my Thursday at the Baltimore City Department of Human Resources building on Fayette street for a web training. After 5- painstakingly long- hours I am now a trained HMIS user. HMIS stands for Homeless Management Information System. The program I learned how to use is called Client Track, which allows service providers to input data about their clients. I now have access to all of the homeless participants who partook in Project Homeless Connect during the last two years. I can see what services these individuals accessed as well as any important information about his or her background and where he or she slept last night. This information becomes very important in seeing what impact the Project Homeless Connect event has on the homeless community. That is to say, if a homeless individual was new to the system upon attending the event, then we would be able to see if he or she was more inclined to receive services after spending one-on-one time with volunteer guides or if that person returned the following year to the next event. This helps to see what is working and what is not. It is clear to me that the people I have worked with at United Way and other non-profits are always trying to create innovative ways to end homelessness. These organizations work together, sharing best practices and lessons learned, in order to work toward ending homelessness and “putting themselves out of a job,” as Reverend Heber Brown would say.
I also spent some time visiting new areas of Baltimore this week. I attended a barbeque with the students who I tutor over the year in Druid Park. It was my first time being there, which was surprising seeing as it is so close to Hopkins. The backyard was filled with people who lived in the community; everyone brought a dish and we were all sitting around eating grilled chicken and sausages while talking about the massive changing going on in Remington. The students told me about the changes that would happening at the school- they would be remodeling the outside of the building. It was great to be part of the excitement and listen to the students discuss their anticipation of the upcoming transformation.
As I reach the half-way point in my internship I recognize how much I have enjoyed my time in Baltimore. I have had time to go out salsa dancing with old friends and invite over new friends for s’mores. I have spent a lot of time exploring Baltimore, and although most of that time has been spent getting lost it has helped me learn a lot about the city and how to navigate. Learning how easy it is to get around makes leaving campus a lot easier, which has been one of the greatest things I have learned this summer.



“Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act….

These whimsical words of wisdom of the great Dr. Seuss basically sum up my week.

Every day whether I am working in the office or outside, I’m reminded that I currently walk a tight rope in shoes much too big for my feet over pieces of very beautiful, yet fragile glass. I am a young, non-black, privileged college student in a city I grew up so close to, yet so far away from and unaware.

Being someone who will do anything to get outside, it’s very easy to get caught up in the beauty and perceived serenity of nature around you. However, sometimes you get so caught up in it that you forget the greater outside world of people’s struggles.

The places I experienced at the beginning and end of my week were so different, yet so alike.

Tuesday afternoon my supervisor asked if I wanted to accompany him for a site consultation. I quickly agreed (as I’ll do anything to get out of a chair and desk), imagining it would be like every other site I had so far visited.

It wasn’t until about half way through the consultation that I realized just where we were in Baltimore. We were visiting Strength to Love II Farm, in a patch of land in Sandtown-Winchester. I had never been to this specific area, and based on everything I had learnt about this neighborhood it did not fit the description. We pulled into a long parking lot FULL of huge hoop houses. As soon as we got out of my supervisor’s old Subaru, we were immediately met by 3 friendly faces who were so excited to show us their farm. Each hoop house was booming and full of rich produce. It was amazing. So much food was growing in this one area of a neighborhood, and it made me wonder who really knows about it. Now this organization is amazing in that it offers a fresh start for those who were once incarcerated and seeking employment. This single farm gives me so much hope. One of the leaders was telling me how he wanted to turn a vacant lot next to the hoop houses into a community garden gathering area of some sort. Just hearing him describe his amazing visions for the space made me start throwing out more ideas as well. Obviously most won’t be able to happen, but his dedication to this land has moved me the most at this point in my internship.

I ended my week by driving out to Bowie to volunteer on a forest garden. Yes, I did say a forest garden. This company “Forested” focuses on creating productive and edible ecosystems that are creative. This was one of the most sustainable landscapes I had ever seen. The canopy was full of fruit and nut trees, while the remaining ground was blooming with herbs and vegetables. Ducks ran around us while we spent the day sweating in the peak of heat to cover annoying weeds with mulch and cardboard. It was such a perfect place to me.

I’ve realized that while we can “move mountains” and make amazing changes, we must head the life that surrounds us. For the urban forest in Bowie it was perfect for a suburban, rural landscape. In a city like Baltimore I’ve seen how life truly is a balancing act. I’m learning that I need to look beyond the beauty of nature in places like this to see how I can “move mountains” in a way that won’t break that glass that I’m walking over. But seeing these 2 sites just gave me a lot of hope, and some good ideas.

We’re all still trying to find our balance, but I think I’ve found a pair of shoes that fit me pretty swell with this program.


This week ended with a highly innovative game of ‘lazy spider pile,’ where you pretend to be a lazy spider and lie on a large rope web at the Orchard we visited. We had had a long day in the sun-- picking blueberries, going on a hayride, playing on the Orchard’s giant slides. The campers all came away with a carton of blueberries to bring home, which was a great triumph due to the tremendous number of refilled cartons-- dropped by campers because of bugs, tag, or sheer defiance. The kids were tired but didn’t quite know it yet, and the adults were tired and trying not to let the kids know it. We had reached the point of turning lying on ropes into a game.
The previous day was spent frantically setting up 8 ikea bags of produce for parents to take home. The Blue Bags have been a hit with the parents. Every time I can't do every step of the process on my own, it feels as if I have failed. It feels as if my project has become a burden to the camp. No one complains, however. The camp director and I had a meeting for mid-summer feedback, and I apologized for creating work for others with my blue bag project. She seemed surprised and said that they were happy to have the camp expand its programming in this way.
During the past few weeks I failed to realize that the blue bag project became the camp’s project more because of the kind of collaborative, supportive community that it is than because of my inability to handle it. The staff’s help on this project has been wonderful, and in some cases incredibly crucial to the execution of the project. Furthermore, if I were to run the Blue Bag project on my own it would be less likely to turn into a sustainable part of the camp’s services. Although I consider myself a team player, I hope that I can come to terms with accepting the correct amount of help for a large project like this one.
Going forward, we hope to provide Blue Bags to more families by getting a portion of the bags donated by Gather Baltimore, and perhaps continuing the service with 29th Street Community Center when we move on to St. Frances Center. Although there are challenges ahead, the demand that we saw from the parents in the last few weeks and the support of the staff has encouraged me to continue.



I feel indecisive at times about what exactly I should pay attention to when writing these blog posts. My post last week felt facile, although it was true: I love getting to meet people at Rides Around, members of the Baltimore community, which we are trying to participate in actively, consciously, and hopefully with joy, the joy of meeting new people and maybe getting to help them or maybe just understanding the city we all live in a little better. Without this program, I would have missed out on all those people and on many experiences. I wouldn’t have biked across half of Baltimore, or camped out in Herring Run Park. Still, it feels facile to just write about those things because there’s so, so much more to write about.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, one incident that stood out to me this past week was a conversation I had with my coworkers. It was D who started the it. Before that, we were all joking around and talking, like we usually do, and having a lot of fun. Rides Around with D and DW has always been fun, and with B and another new hire, T, there, it was even better. Then D asked a question that made sense for him to ask, considering that all of my coworkers are black men who for the most part grew up in Baltimore, and who've lived there for awhile, and I’m a white Hopkins girl from Missouri who's only working at Rec and Parks for the summer : “Hey, what did you think of those police getting shot in Dallas?”
I don’t know if it was tense after he asked that question or if everyone was just suddenly paying attention. Maybe I just felt like it was tense.
“I don’t think that it’s right to shoot people, but I’m more afraid for the civilians like the people who were murdered earlier in the week,” I answered. Maybe I said something a little different, I’m not sure. That’s along the lines of what I said, though. It was nothing too articulate. I don't remember if I named names.
“High five,” D said.
“I don’t think I should get a high five for that really,” I said.
“High five for that,” DW, who was standing on my other side, said.
I high fived both of them but still didn’t feel like I deserved one. And I’m not looking for a high five by writing this-- I do think that the pattern of killings that we have seen-- Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and many, many more over the years-- is more frightening and horrible than a lone sniper targeting police officers. What happened in Dallas was a terrible tragedy, and it should not have happened, but it should not distract and does not detract from the fact that earlier in the week, one after the other, black men were murdered by police officers, and that we have seen that happen in our racist society time and time again, with no punishment. The Dallas shooting, while again, extremely tragic, should not detract from the BLM movement that is trying to change things for the better.
I know that what I said to them was definitely shaped by the fact that I was aware of our differences in experience and race, and that I knew I was being judged by my response. Our discussion afterward ranged over the media portrayal of Dallas-- two civilians were wounded as well, although news sources did not pay much if any attention to them-- to their experiences with police, funny stories as well as serious ones. After not too long, it went back to our normal conversation: Droid vs Iphone, PS4 vs Xbox, whether living alone or having roommates is better, and of course, how shitty my bike is. According to D and DW, it is worth approximately negative fifteen dollars: the guy who sold it to me should have paid me to take the bike from him. Time passed quickly and pleasantly until it was time to pack up the bikes and head home. I went home and thought of that conversation at random moments throughout the day. I wrote about it this week because it makes me nervous to write about it, because I'm worried about saying the wrong thing, but I feel that it would have been impossible to write a post responsibly without mentioning the violence that has been done this week in some capacity. I’m not totally sure what that conversation revealed about me, or what the fact that I’m writing about it reveals, or whether I'm getting everything right (I'm very probably not) but I know that conversations like it are important, and I wouldn’t have gotten to have it with those particular individuals, people who I much appreciate getting to spend time with, without being here this summer.



In my role as Community Partner Coordinator at Thread, I am tasked with mediating disciplinary infractions in the hope of establishing a constructive solution. While I am mindful of the wishes of our community partners, I feel like I need to primarily serve as an outlet for our students. Caleb and I outlined a discipline system for our summer jobs program, with one unexcused absence meriting a warning and a letter home, and over three leading to eventual termination from employment. What has really bothered me is that our employers have the tendency to not reach out and call with an update until the student has missed over three days of work, or when their behavior takes a turn for the extreme. Hence, I have received too many phone calls where a community partner has simply informed me that a student was fired. In many of these instances, I had no idea that their job was even close to being in jeopardy.
One community partner informed me that they would be terminating a student for absences, and that “he could drop his shirt off at the center or get a volunteer to do it.” Given the challenges that these kids face in their daily lives, I thought it was incredibly callous for the employer to drop the student without even hearing them out in person. That’s why I have mobilized the volunteer family and been in constant contact with the student since this event, as we are planning a face to face sit down. In this meeting, we will vouch to give the student a second chance, but that ultimately appears unlikely. But the larger point is this; If you are going to fire a kid from what could easily be their first official employment experience, you need to sit down with them and inform them where their performance was lacking. Ultimately we want this summer to be about personal growth and career development for the students in our program, and there are lessons that can be learned even in termination. Even if I can’t save one student’s job, I can at least ensure that they fully understand why they were terminated so they do not repeat those same mistakes at future jobs.
Ultimately, I choose to fight for our students. Too often I feel that many of our kids are misunderstood, that some employers are almost tone deaf to the challenges and plights that they face to even make it into work each morning. When students are absent at work or their behavior takes a turn for the worse, I want to uncover the potential attributing factors. Recently I was sitting in the office as Caleb was fielding a call from an employer who was angry that her student wanted a thirty-minute lunch break and did not understand why they could not eat at home. Caleb asked her to consider the fact that her student might not have easy access to healthy food choices in the neighborhood in which he lives, due to the numerous food deserts present throughout Baltimore City. For many of our kids, the easy and routine are not at all routine or easy. That’s why I feel like one of the most rewarding parts of my work this summer will be amplifying their voices and perspectives when the time becomes appropriate. Whether this takes the form of helping each of them reflect upon their summer experiences and talk about their growth within an end of summer booklet, or whether it requires me to fight tirelessly for a student’s continued employment, I will try to meet these challenges and serve our students first and foremost.


On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, physiological needs are said to be at the base of what we need to survive. These include food, water, and sleep. According to Maslow, if physiological needs are not met, none of the higher levels can be reasonably attained including safety, psychological, esteem, or self-actualization needs. For some Baltimore City students, physiological needs aren’t being met. Because of this, it is almost impossible to expect these students to learn a significant amount in the classroom.
One thing the city does to counteract this problem is provide reduced price or free lunches. A similar program also extends to the summer and provides the students in MERIT lunch every day. However, this past Tuesday, the lunches didn’t come. I called the Baltimore City program’s office and was placed me on hold for 30 minutes. Someone picked up and curtly said, “The driver got lost. Call us back in 15-20 minutes.” After 15-20 minutes and another call, they assured me the driver would be there in 15-20 minutes. By this time, the students finished their labs and waited for the food. 30 minutes later and no more food than we began with, the students decided to leave for their afternoon labs on the medical campus.
Now, I was incredibly frustrated at the folks in charge of lunch, but I felt even worse looking at the situation from our students’ perspectives. It was irresponsible that the driver got lost (even though they had been delivering to our site for a whole week prior) and completely neglected all of the students we had. How can we expect students to perform well if they don’t have their lunches? For some students, that lunch could have been their first meal of the day or possibly their only meal of the day. All in all, if the city is going to provide free lunches to students, they better make sure to follow through and deliver them because it can have a large impact on learning and thus the students’ futures.




As I pack away the leftovers from the lunches we serve to our students every day, these words ring out from the other side of the wall, like an unexpected crack of thunder on a quiet afternoon.

Actually, hearing such statements is not uncommon at HEBCAC YO. The woman who has shouted this particular phrase is a visitor for the day – a graduated student who has returned to speak to current students (at the center, “graduated” refers to a previous YO! attendee that has successfully passed their GED test and has been consistently employed or attending college since). The center frequently asks its graduates to return and motivate current students to meet their personal goals, or to encourage them to continue attending their GED classes.

Having finished with the lunches, I reenter one of the classrooms – class is in session and the students are hard at work, surrounded by motivational posters and quotes written on whiteboards. A personal favorite around the center is “Education is the fight for your life.” It was actually written on the white board by last year’s CIIP intern, and I hear it quoted at least a few times a week by teachers and students alike.

I have had the privilege of growing up in a household where education was not just emphasized, but prioritized. The students who come to classes at HEBCAC YO are all high-school dropouts, most of whom have not had access to the same quality of schooling that many people (myself included) sometimes take for granted, and many who have not received the lifelong support from their schools and families that I often do not think twice about but consistently benefit from.

Later that day, I am lounging on a big plushy couch with K, a 23 year-old student with a “Cherish” tattoo snaking around her wrist and a natural affability. Out of the different roles I play around the center, my favorite has without a doubt been the moments during which I find myself sitting on one of the couches with one or two other students, and we’re just talking. I love these moments because of the random anecdotes the students share – some hilarious, some heartbreaking, but all a little glimpse of the lives they lead outside the walls of HEBCAC YO.

As I sit there listening to K, I am blown away by the things she has experienced in her 23 years: a childhood of emotional abuse by the grandmother who raised her; reaching a breaking point, rebelling, and getting pregnant at the age of 13; raising her 4 month old daughter alone after her boyfriend was imprisoned for drug-dealing, and then eventually, dropping out of school to also deal drugs and become a stripper in order to obtain financial stability.

I sit there, nearly paralyzed. Though we are only two years apart in age, K has lived through experiences that my privileged upbringing prevents me from even beginning to understand or comprehend. She makes it clear that throughout all of these ordeals, there was no support: from family, or her school system.

It dawns on me then that yes, the fucking education system is broken, because it has failed to adequately support the students who are like K, who need that support more than anyone. To be a “high-school dropout” is a highly stigmatized position to hold in today’s society. If you’ve dropped out of high school, you must be unmotivated, right? Or unintelligent?

But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Though it is convenient to shift blame to the students, oftentimes those who drop out are victims of a cyclical and systemic oppression that is ingrained within the city's educational system.

Education is the fight for your life, but it hasn’t been a fair fight for these students.

Though the system has failed them, none of them are ready to give up on their fight for an education - and so they come in to the center everyday with unflinching dedication. Everyday, students like K teach me far more - through their resilience and intelligence - than I could ever hope to teach them in my classes.

For the 350 dropouts enrolled in our program, the opportunities HEBCAC YO provides are life-changing. We are truly standing beside them the whole way on their journey - from getting a GED successfully to finding a job, to getting accepted to and attending college. And though I leave the center every day feeling as though the work I am doing is meaningful and impactful, there are over 700 students who drop out of Baltimore City Public high schools EVERY YEAR. Who is helping them in their fight?


We're gearing up at Code in the Schools for CodeWorks. CodeWorks is our five week coding bootcamp for 17-21 year old Youth Workers in Baltimore. Each Youth Worker we get will be placed in one of four tracks: intro to programming, web development, video games, and Microsoft certification. Each track is at a different location around Baltimore and our 96 youth workers will be split between them.

So here it comes, The Big Thing. The week before CodeWorks is an integral one in the office. And naturally, this is the week I get into a bit of a slump.

I keep zoning out at my desk and staring out into eyes of the giant face graffitied on the walls outside our office. I check my phone a little too often, even when I don’t want to, like a reflex. I can’t seem to organize my tasks in a way that I can effectively finish them off like I normally do.

Praises aren’t being tossed at me this week. In fact, I get my first piece of constructive criticism. I’m sending out email after email to potential sponsors trying to get free lunches for our workers and Charlotte comes in from a meeting after email 3 to ask me to write a more informative and compelling subject line. She says it nicely but I can’t help but feel dumb. Here I am, a student who is allegedly getting a degree from a top ranked engineering department and I can’t even formulate an effective subject line for emails.

Speaking of the sponsorship emails, my confidence is taking more hits. Trying to get restaurants to give out free meals for 100 kids is difficult. I tailor each email to the restaurant to try to make it a little more personal and researching each potential sponsor, as well as finding good contact info, takes a surprising amount of time. I spend all of Thursday on these asks and by 2 I have fired off about 30 and received 1 reply: a rejection, basically.

I trudge on with the emails, hope dwindling with every passing minute and with the lack of new emails in my inbox.

A half hour before I leave, an email arrives. It’s short and it’s sweet and it’s everything to me. A Baltimore catering company is donating 100 boxed lunches to us for our first day of CodeWorks. I leap into the room next door to tell everyone about this act of generosity.

This is hope. This is a start. This is what I need.

I carry on.



“Did we love Freddie Gray before he died?”

This is one of the first questions that Makayla asked our group when she came to speak at the Mid-point event. The same questions can be asked about the individuals killed this past week at the hands of police brutality, like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Makayla’s words for us were so beautiful and so necessary, especially in the wake of these recent tragedies.

In what ways have we, as individuals and a society, failed to love Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and so many others? And how do we begin to demonstrate our love for them before we simply know their names behind hashtags? When placing Makayla’s words alongside Joe Manko’s, our other speaker this week and principal at Liberty Elementary, a potential answer appears. Public education has consistently failed the African American community for decades. The system hasn’t simply been unfair to these individuals when they encounter police; it begins in classrooms. But that’s also where we can begin to allocate our time, energy, resources, and love.

There is love at Liberty Elementary everyday. Though the academic instruction they receive is amazing, this love extends past math and reading. Mr. Manko and the rest of the staff at Liberty work incredibly hard to ensure that the students are getting an education that is enriching, despite the challenging economic backgrounds from which the majority students come. They do so through field trips, technology, after school activities, and much, much more. The summer camp program that Liberty has been running the past few years, I feel, is a powerful example. (To be clear, the money that funds the program does NOT come from the city. The principal himself writes the grants so that the camp can continue.) Students walk in every morning excited to learn, knowing Liberty is a space where they will be fed, feel safe, and have fun. The school cares about them outside the usual September-June span of time. We can show that we love black children and that their lives matter if we care about the education they receive. As Mr. Manko mentioned in his anecdote about former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit, black children should be able to create their own worlds and express their passions, especially at school.

Education is one of many avenues, of course. We can simply look at how members of the black community are seriously underserved in their daily lives, from limited access to food, health services, and clean living environments. Through CIIP, we are all able to be a part of organizations that strive to show that black lives do matter and deserve love.



This week, I began to learn what it means to be pushed outside of my comfort zone. While a lot of the week was spent reading law and interpreting each state's very unique eviction process, I also had the chance to do some outreach in the form of gaining signatures for the Housing Trust Fund. This is a daunting task, as the coalition we are a part of is scrambling to find 15,000 signatures by August 8 with very little time to do it. With my limited connections and resources, I have been trying everything I can to reach out to the community around me and help obtain them. This started with talking to my co-workers, which led to a very interesting meeting with a reverend at a church in Bolton Hill. Here, I was really put to the test when it came to my knowledge on this charter amendment, and when it became obvious that I didn't know something, he would quickly look at the language of the amendment and correct me. I soon realized that in order to really get the word out about this initiative, I would need to know this completely so as to defend it to the best of my ability. I am not much of a negotiator, but networking and talking to the community at large will be a big part of being successful in the tasks set before me. In this part of my work I will definitely need to be able to defend this amendment, as well as other policies, that are and will become so integral to this city's fair development in the future.


I am really happy when a case gets dismissed. Sometimes we show up for court, having spent the entire weekend preparing a solid defense and reading case law, and the victim or witnesses do not show up. The case ends up getting dismissed and the client walks away with no record, facts not sustained. In many ways I wish the client had not been brought to court in the first place. However, I cannot help cherishing these moments as small victories.



In reflecting on Thursday’s speaker event, I have been reflecting on the difficulties in lobbying local authorities to attend to issues local organizations find pertinent. Despite the persistent presence of advocates at city council and school board meetings, it seems that our speakers were implying that it is difficult to get local voices across. I wonder if there are any other constructive ways of lobbying local officials toward local causes. It seems the local legislature responds often to protest and more visible issues, but I would hope for a simpler process in lobbying for more specific issues. Perhaps it is a matter of inundating these officials with requests for meetings. If many individuals made their own attempts simultaneously to meet with local council members for the same purpose, accumulating these requests might have the effect of bringing forth these important issues. As a more general reflection, I feel another drive to participate in more communal work. Each of these speaker series tends to motivate me to take part in more individual volunteer work, particularly in homeless and formerly incarcerated communities. I would like to contribute to the discussions that this week’s speakers brought up by learning firsthand from community members in need. I have always found that level of work stimulating when tutoring in the Baltimore City Detention Center, but it feels appropriate that I now branch out into another community that could use another volunteer, if not another advocate. I feel at my most comfortable as a Baltimore citizen when I am meeting individuals in need, because I can learn from them and, in the long-run, contribute to their needs. I intend to do more such work throughout this summer.


"The Master's Tools will NEVER Dismantle the Master's House." It's a famous piece by Audre Lorde, probably one of her most notable lines. Last Thursday, Makayla uttered those same words. In them are entangled thousands of years of black suffering, of woman suffering, of people suffering. In them, the echoes of wails and shouts, of arms outstretched towards the sky and hands grasping for any glittering star that could possibly fall from the opaque stream above. Those words are enriched with the knowledge of struggle and endurance, but also with the awareness of eyes watching while we dismantle- the oppressor, I mean master's, eyes. Makayla spoke of what we know, but still cannot seem to comprehend- that the lives of black and brown folks, of poor and transgender folks, of woman folks and marginalized folks matter less to society, to our country than those of the "other" - the "other" meaning the powerful, of course. Makayla spoke of solutions, of possibilities, and of the ever-so-reachable future of equity and days without death. Oh, there has been so much death. There have been far too many funerals for those without a single wrinkle on their body. There has been so much senseless going around I'm beginning to think it's contagious. There are too many mothers weeping for their black sons, begging them to come home so that they can crawl into the arms of their mother who will kiss the fears away and tuck them to bed afterward. There have been far too many tears. There have been far too many shootings and beatings and killings and everything-in-betweens with little to change that from the system that put it all there to begin with. There have been far too many words and not enough actions. Far too many of us marching for change and forcing our lungs with as much as they can hold to clamor our grievances and desperation and far too little of them listening to us. Too many of them closing their doors behind them, hoping that, when the sun rises again, we'll be gone. What resonated with me was not the utterance of these facts, of these words, but the knowledge that we are not alone in our weeping. We are not alone in our suffering and the suffering of our fellow black and brown people. We are all together and we are all in want of change. What resonated with me were not the words, but the togetherness of us all. All of us in that room yearning for more, yearning to unweave the stitches of the city and include ourselves within. What I learned was that once united, we can never be defeated. We will always keep fighting and we will never close our doors to the cries of our neighbors....... anymore.



You can have the most fun of all when things don’t go as planned.

In the self-care exercise on the first day of orientation, at the front and center of my mandala, I cut and pasted “I didn’t expect this” out of a magazine. It’s as if everyday, whether I like it or not, I am testing myself to use this quote as an overarching guide for my internship. The midpoint event this Thursday was an interesting experiment of how I might try to summarize to other people what I’ve been doing over the course of the past month. I never walk into work and have the same task to do as the day before. I usually find out what I’m doing for the day within a few minutes of stepping into work. I can’t usually plan ahead for things that my boss wants me to do, because there's no real structure to my day. Wherever I look, I’m thrown into unfamiliar situations and have take things as they come, like transporting a shopping cart overstuffed with gardening supplies down a hill with 3 Youth Workers and dealing with the aftermath of its inevitable collapse.

That brings me to another thought. Last week I had mentioned that I wanted to get closer to the Youth Works workers at my site. A week later I think that we're starting to learn to respect each other's company a little bit more. Sometimes I do feel weird instructing them to do things like clean the building when a) it's something I could do myself and b) all I do is watch them and could probably do something more office-oriented that would be more fulfilling. But this week, when I explained why it was important that we do this for 901 Arts as a whole, it put my outlook on my internship into perspective. There was something about explaining to them the importance of their jobs that made me reconsider the function of my own job. On Thursday, the midpoint speakers reminded us that the jobs we were doing are important--and when they said that, I had trouble believing them. But I think that I have to take some distance and think about how I've been able to meet people I'd likely never have met, and slowly, my job is starting to become clearer and more meaningful to me.


I couldn’t help but feel a bit pigeonholed when I found out that I would be in the arts group this summer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely interested in visual art, but I also don’t know what I’m really interested in, and I suppose I had anticipated a placement in something like public health or education, something that registers as directly impactful on people’s lives.

Regardless, my experiences painting have connected to contemporary social and health issues like homelessness, addiction, and the drug trade/prohibition. Many of those experiences have arisen from this past week. Since we’re finally out on the avenue painting every day, my responsibilities have shifted to involve a lot more interaction with community members, a considerable number of whom are addicts. There’s truly a spectrum of different faces in the crowd here; the vast majority of folks are friendly if you engage them (or just allow them to engage you), but several are belligerent. The latter are palpably draining.

This past weekend, members of the painting team had to work late every night – usually 8pm-1am – to outline the mural with an Epson projector, aided by the nighttime conditions. The other intern Tariq and I took turns using the spray-paint and watching the equipment. Contrary to my assumptions, watching the equipment was never an inactive job; simply standing around on that end of the block at any time of day demands the energy to engage or deflect interested passerby.

Early on in the night, I had a very memorable and uplifting conversation to an older man I met named Rahim. He was admiring the mural and musing about how it reminded him of “the old days” (his words) on the avenue. I asked him questions about changes he’d seen in the neighborhood since the 1960s or so, and the conversation ended fruitfully with him giving me his number. He’s interested in doing an oral history sort of thing about some of Jubilee’s mural sites we’re painting this summer. I’m really excited to do this – it’s as if I’ve struck intern gold.

Anyways, as we worked our way down the block last night, we got closer and closer to the 24-hour mart on the corner. Outside of the corner store, young guys sitting on milk cartons duck back into the store between sodas and cigarettes. One yells something to the order of “greentops, greentops, on ya girl” incessantly.

Funny enough, the noise from the generator we were using to power our equipment began to drown out these calls and generally annoy the boys on the corner. One of them called Tariq over for a chat – we were interrupting business. I don’t mean to indulge my perspective on this too much, but it was interesting painting just a few feet from the operation; an interesting place to be a fly on the wall. There’s a mural pun in there somewhere.



"Inhale deeply, and hold it for four counts," Jea's voice read the script out slowly. This week youth workers recorded two voice overs, one featuring a student and one featuring a professional voice actor, to create pieces on meditation for school and work environments. The pieces required hours of work to simply record. "Go again, pretend you're speaking to a class. They're in front of you listening," Josh, another youth worker instructed.

I don't want to say I was surprised, because that is not the right word exactly. But I was impressed, yet again, by how professional the students are. They know what needs to be done to get better takes and better edits, and they challenge me to find ways to help them to continue to grow and improve. Working with them excites me, it gives me insight into what they feel needs to be in these videos to speak to their peers and the community. I feel that the goals I set for myself at the start are attainable. I have already been able to do so much more with the community and Wide Angle than I anticipated coming into it and I am grateful for that.