What else can I do?

The morning of July 14th, I leaped out of the bed, skipped to the shuttle stop, and trotted into the Shepherd’s Clinic just as bright eyed and bushy tailed as I could be for my first day of work. I greeted my supervisor with a wide smile and with my mind and arms wide open, ready to learn as much as a possible and ready to help out wherever and whenever possible. My supervisor satisfied my enthusiasm and presented to me a mountain of projects that needed to be completed. Five weeks later, that mountain has become a mole hill.

Over the last 5 weeks, with the help of my supervisor and my coworkers, I’ve found my place within the clinic and developed a groove. My coworkers and I work well together. Like, really well. Like a machine. Like an automatic tennis ball machine. People toss work at us, and we shoot it back at them gift wrapped with a pretty red bow on top before they even turn around to leave the room. Medical records are being sent out on the same day we receive the requests. Blythe, one of my coworkers, brought us into the 21st century by digitizing the calendars that track when the doctors and insurance counselors come into the clinic. Most of the volunteers now know how to check in, check out, schedule appointments for, and collect donations from patients all by themselves. Most of the volunteers either know or are learning how to screen patients on their own. My supervisor trusts me to train the new volunteers. Life is swell.

But I didn’t apply to this internship to achieve a swell life. I came to make a lasting impact and I came to be exemplary. And so now I ask what else can I do? What else needs to be done? How can I use my talents and experiences in a unique way to make a lasting impact to the benefit of the Shepherd’s Clinic? The clinic was nice enough to invest in me over these last 5 weeks to help me develop valuable life skills, gain work experience, and expand my knowledge about the health care field and nonprofit organizations. What can I give back? Figuring that out and doing it will be the focus of my efforts for these last few weeks. I pray God expands my viewpoint and helps me to think outside of the box. If ya’ll have any ideas, hit a brother up.


My program director at Martha's Place had one foot out the door from the start of my internship five weeks ago. She finally pulled the trigger this past Monday and left.

Fortunately, there was only one resident residing at Martha's Place at the time and she was being transitioned out to a different program more suited to her needs. The only people who were negatively effected by this were the house managers. Without executive staff (mostly the addictions counselor, who needs to be hired by the program director), no intakes of new residents can take place. Without new residents, house managers do not have a job. From my knowledge, they were let go.

As for me, the rest of the week was spent searching for a new placement and volunteering for Jubilee Arts, a sister organization of Martha's Place. Jubilee is a community arts center that provides classes for youth and adults. It was fun having the opportunity to work with the youth on their art projects.

I am disappointed that Martha's Place is going through this transition because addiction is an enormous issue in Baltimore. I am also disappointed for more selfish issues. I was really looking forward to working there, and unfortunately, a lot of my time there was spent watching the ship sink. I learned a lot, but this is definitely not what I was expecting nor was I hoping for this particular experience. Such is life.

I start at my new site, YouthWorks, on Monday. I am not sure what to expect, but I am open to the experience.

Tune in next week.


Although Abby, Jessa, Reverend father Glen Huber, and all the other CIIP mentors warned us about entering our partner organizations with this mindset that we’re about to save the people of Baltimore, I couldn’t help it. After sitting through the one-week orientation boot camp 9 hours each day and getting crammed with information revolving non-profit and the people of Baltimore, I couldn’t help it. After spending 1 year solely focusing on my academics and ignoring the City I’ve lived in for 10 years, I couldn’t help it. After seeing the work that my childhood friends, Logan Young and Jeffrey Obike, were involved in to uplift the youth of Baltimore, I couldn’t help it. I wanted to give back to my city, but my mindset wasn’t the right way to go about it.
I realized this in the process of pushing through a dance club I had in mind. I mentioned the thought of me teaching African dance to the kids, at which my boss liked, the kids liked, and their parents wanted to get a hand in. But that was it. The club didn’t get father than a desirable thought. Instead my site supervisor gave me busy work and an after-camp soccer club to take charge of. At first I felt dejected. I felt like the failure of starting the dance club reflected poorly on my dedication to my internship and to my kids. The first day of the soccer club was 97 degrees hot and I helped set up cones and watched as Coach Toy ran the kids through different drills. The next day of soccer club, my boss told me coach Tony wouldn’t make it, so the kids were mine. This was 20 minutes before the start time.
At the conclusion of the club that day, one of the small Hispanic kids, Phillipe, came to me and asked when the next soccer club day was. Then another kids asked me if he could bring his friends. And then I proceeded to recollect more soccer drills I had done in my days that were more interactive than what I had the kids do that day. I watched videos of heading and passing drills and created a list of the most interactive ones I saw for the next soccer club day. I told the kids to bring their friends for an even more fun experience for the following soccer club day. I told myself that I would put my all into this soccer club to not only make my kids happy, but also my site supervisor and her staff. I told myself that I didn’t come here to save anyone. I’m here to support my staff in the already benevolent work they are doing for the kids.


With three weeks left in the program, I’ve realized one thing: I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I wish I could say it’s for purely unselfish reasons but that would be a lie. I realized in these last five weeks, I’ve found a piece of myself that I had lost in the last two years. You see, I went to a career academy high school that focused on Allied Health Sciences - meaning that along with a normal high school curriculum, everyone took specific health care related classes. (Think medical school but for high schoolers.) It was in those four years that I really discovered my passion for medicine and knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.

Going to college, I lost that reminder I had every day in high school. There’s no Medical Terminology class here, no EKG interpretation, hell, not even an Anatomy and Physiology class. Hopkins gives me all the science intensive classes with some medical aspects here and there whereas in high school I had both my science classes and my medical classes. So in these last two years, I’ve missed having that component in my education and really just being exposed to that kind of environment. Interning at the Esperanza Center made me realize just how much I enjoy medicine and learning about different illnesses, treatment options, etc.

My experience in these last five weeks has helped fill a void in me that’s been empty for a long time now. With sophomore year being a time where you sort of question every decision you make, I really needed this type of exposure to remind myself of what my goals are and what I’m doing here. That’s not something I want to lose any time soon, especially not once classes start up and life gets crazy again.


By this point of the program I’ve discussed my experiences with Ramadan, exploring Baltimore, meeting people with such intense dedication to this city and my expectations versus reality of working with young people. However, what I’ve neglected to discuss yet makes up a significantly large portion of my day—six hours a day, four days a week—my program.

SummerREADS is a program through Maryland Out of School Time Network which recognizes the opportunity gap between higher and lower income students. The summer is a risky time for students who do not have the opportunity to attend programming that helps them retain skills developed during the school year—students can actually lose half a year of learning over the summer without consistent exposure to materials that keep them academically engaged. Which is were we come in.

What’s amazing about SummerREADS is that it is so intertwined with maintaining students’ literacy levels but it doesn’t feel like school. (I promise, no one paid me to say this.) I know it sounds like a broad, possibly reaching claim to say that the work we do instills a lifelong love of literacy in each and every student that passes through the library doors—but it definitely does something for every student. Whether they’re reading at grade level, above or below, my co-counselors, site librarian and I work hard to make being in the library a special experience for our students.

Each week my co-counselors and I plan a theme based on our community partner visits: an animal theme the week the Maryland Zoo visited to a Lorax theme this upcoming week as we expect a visit from Blue Water Baltimore. We then center our activities around the theme: our students have down time to read, center time which rotates groups between a reading, writing and creative activity to extend the day’s lesson and an almost daily workshop with a community partner.

While each week has brought its own new experiences and challenges, I’m looking forward to this week, as my students and I explore one of my favorite books, Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax together. I know all too well that my own excitement can make it challenging for me to be receptive of a student who may not be as excited (I am hoping this is not actually possible…) but ultimately I hope that as we enter week four of the program that the work we’ve done together so far continues to excite the students about reading.




“Good afternoon, the Central Baltimore Partnership Partners meeting is through the entrance, past the double doors.” Like a mantra, I chant the same sentence over and over again as individuals glide past me and enter the Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in anticipation of our recent announcement.

Wednesday, July 13th officially marked the announcement of Central Baltimore Partnership’s Wells Fargo National Pilot Program, a yearlong survey and implementation process to develop a set of concrete recommendations for the Homewood Community Partners Initiative. Funded by Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, the Equitable Development project (the name, as of now, is still being decided on by community leaders) gives Central Baltimore Partnership the opportunity to incorporate resident perceptions of the neighborhood and identified areas of concern into development efforts that have been taking place within the area. My recent conversations with CBP partners and anchor institution representatives have suggested that the both the accumulated data and the strengthening of community-non-profit relations will be crucial in carrying out an effective implementation process (as it largely dictates the areas of concern that will be focused on in subsequent focus group meetings).

Realistically, the process of administering a neighborhood survey is cumbersome, and my CBP coworkers and I have already stumbled across a number of pressing issues- access to residences, communication with the randomly selected households, multi-unit families, grant restrictions, incentives for survey administrators, and so on. More than that, other local organizations are targeting the same residential neighborhoods, and the high number of different canvassing efforts and survey processes disincentives many residents from responding favorably to a 20 minute long surveying process. In addition to that, neighborhood dynamics may have shifted in response to the recent onslaught of police-related deaths. With less than a week left to put together a comprehensive plan for our neighborhood surveying process (which will occur this upcoming Saturday on July 23rd, coinciding with Baltimore Pride), we are a little concerned with being able to recruit a sufficient number of volunteers. Nevertheless, we have high hopes that the surveying process will turn out to be successful, even if our initial yield may not be as high as we would have initially anticipated.


I never thought much of that person at the door, on the corner, outside the grocery store clipboard in hand and righteous t-shirt displaying their cause. The petitioner. The annoying and in-your-face person that most ignore. Why? Many think they are asking for some sort of donation, maybe trying to get you to buy something, and some might be. I’m not a solicitor though. I don’t ask for anyone’s money or demand the license to their soul. I simply ask for a signature. One signature that will amount to 10,000 signatures, all as important as the last. I give someone the option to make a difference, make a change in a system that often times seems to large and fluid in its function that it is impossible to change its course. I offer someone power, a voice, a chance to make a change...yet, I am still that annoying and in-your-face person that everyone would rather ignore. It is ironic how people run from me and ignore me when I offer them so much. I have learned to honor the petitioner. The one who sweats from head to toe from when the sun comes up to when the moon comes out. The one who kills their feet for the better of others in the service of others. I will now open every door, stop at every corner, and call them over outside of every grocery store. I will honor the petitioner, for I have learned the respect they deserve as I sweat through my tennis shoes and righteous t-shirt.




"Charlie, how much longer are you staying in the office with us for?" My boss asked me while at sat across from his desk yesterday. I responded that after this week I only had 3 weeks left. He looked shocked, and responded talking about how quickly these 5 weeks have flown by.

I have been thinking about how I only have 3 weeks left a lot today. The theme of this weeks Bites of Baltimore session was making sure that we contribute all we want to the organizations that we are at, and I feel as thought I am successfully working towards this goal.

The office has been busy and although I have been here for almost 5 weeks I still feel like I have not gotten to know my boss as well as I would like. The previous internships I have had through CIIP (At the 29th Street Community Center and the Franciscan Center) had me working directly with my boss every day. Because my boss was out all week, and my position requires me to travel around with other people in the office I feel as though I have not gotten to know my boss as well as I had wished. Building connections are valuable and one of my goals throughout the next 3 weeks is to get to know my boss better.

Another goal of mine throughout this internship was to narrow down my focus for when I graduate college. I now know that I am not very interested in politics, but the marketing and communications aspects of this internship interested me a lot. Getting as much experience in these two areas will allow me to get the most out of my last 3 weeks.


Five weeks have passed since I began my time at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. The first two weeks I spent sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours at a time, the following three have been spent chasing after kids and attempting to get to know them so that maybe, by the end of this internship, I could relate to them. Maybe, by the end of my time here, I could have a close relationship with at least one of my students to help them in any way I could. Lucky for me, I have been able to create this relationship with a few of my students and I still have three weeks left. As my class sat and listened to a guest presentation, one of my students became very disruptive as he felt the need to talk to his brother—completely disregarding anything else going on around him. After asking him to pay attention several times, it came to the point where my co-teacher made him switch seats away from his brother, to which his response was to cry and run out of the room. I quickly chased after him and was shocked when he turned to me yelling that he couldn't trust me, my co-teacher, his parents, or anyone beside his brother. He informed me that he had promised his brother that he would sit next to him and that he was forced to unfairly break that promise to his brother—since the only people they could trust were each other. This led to conversation about his parents who were getting a divorce and after a half hour conversation he regained trust in me as I was able to relate and restore his faith in those who love him. I realized after this how much I truly love and care about every single one of my students. Every moment with my students, big or small, is something I cherish and will immediately miss after this is over. I feel blessed that I was able to meet my goals before the end of my internship because now I know I can do it again. The rush of hugs when I walk into a room, the bracelet given to me by my most troublesome student, and the conversations I have every day with my kids is all just another sign that I can and will continue to make a difference.


I take the circulator to Federal Hill for Baltimore Corps’ office, a house located right beside the prominent hill. Throughout the day, staff members come and go, talking to community members and mostly working on their Mac laptops. If not in the office, members work in coffee shops in the city.

The organization was approached by a nonprofit study group who wanted to document the success Baltimore Corps as had as a 501(c)(3). One of the staff members mentioned their unease because the organization does not go out and “get their hands dirty” doing work for the city. And to be honest, that’s been similar to my concern. However, another team member told me how that success does come in different forms. And when people think of nonprofit work, they think of that hands-on image. But that should not demean the success of an organization that works with members sweating over their laptops and advocating for the city through emails and phone calls and professional meetings set in coffee shops. As cities become more and more modern, it is a practical answer to use technology to be more efficient in working for the city.

I read an essay once about community service and whether or not it is in someway selfish, that we help people because it helps us. And I think we when we volunteer, we desire to do a lot of hands-on things because it's tangible—it's easier to see, to grasp, to believe you are doing good. And so yeah, it is a bit selfish but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's why doing work via technology does not seem as great—there's less of that tangibleness that makes you feel good about what you're doing—although this should not demean work that is uses a more unconventional approach.



Over the past five weeks I have found myself explaining to friends, family, or even fellow Baltimoreans waiting at the bus stop that although I am an intern in the Homeless Services Program at the Mayor's Office of Human Services (HSP), I don't spend my days working directly with the homeless population. Rather, my role in the larger mechanism to resolve homelessness in Baltimore takes on the appearance and responsibilities as a facilitator and liaison between the community providers and the housing programs or organizations that are developing new programs. However, that doesn't constrict my opportunities of lending a hand to those who are asking for help. I, both as an intern at HSP or an undergraduate student who attends a university in Baltimore, have the ability and therefore the responsibility to take a step out of my comfort zone and try to make a difference. That difference could be impacting the lives of dozens of children through tutoring in the nearest elementary school or simply subside the hunger in one man's stomach for a day. My time in the mayor's office will come to a close in a couple of weeks, but my actions should continue to impact the people and communities in Baltimore through whichever ways I can. I don't hope to come across as inauthentic or self-righteous, but rather to remind myself and perhaps my fellow interns that opportunities to continue to impact Baltimore won't come to an end on August 6th. Our community can continue to use the skills we have gained over the summer in powerful ways. Every bus ride home when I see someone wearing tattered clothes or carrying what seems as all their earthly belongs, why can't I take the initiative to see if they have had lunch today or if they know where the nearest shelter is? The simple act of reaching out and allowing myself to put my needs or wants in reverse can go farther than we would expect. The double cheese burger and fries that James Frank Keith (a guy with three first names as he referred to himself) munched on as we talked about the unbearable heat meant he had a full stomach that day. Yes, today he might be hungry but with the outreach pamphlet he now has, James can make his way to a free lunch and possibly a case manager to begin his search for permanent housing. Just as a marathon requires thousands of steps but starts with one, the change that Baltimore is longing for and deserves will require thousands of community members to work together but could all start with one small act or initiative.


Well, I'm glad I have air conditioning.

This past week was HOT. Lol I mean I'm cool with hot (I'm from Southern California) but add the humidity and it was a crap show. Even walking back to the bus stop was physically draining: by the time I got there, I was covered in sweat and wanted to complain about the JHMI shuttle for running every 15 minutes, not 5.

And then I was reminded of our youth...many who live on the streets and often want to come into our drop-in center just to avoid the heat. I never really thought about A/C as a privilege before (I feels like its everywhere), but I need to stop taking things I have for granted and really give thanks to God for his constant provision.

Even some of the youth inspire me, when they mention how they are "blessed" despite their homeless situations. What an attitude can do to change how you think!



Four. That is number of photo IDs I have in my wallet right now: my New Jersey state issued driver’s license, Bank of America debit card, Johns Hopkins University student ID, and United Way of Central Maryland access card. This is excluding my passport and other old school IDs, which I leave at home rather than carrying in my wallet.

I remember counting this number in my head as I guided the next person through the process to getting just one photo ID. The process is long and arduous, which makes getting a Maryland state ID out of the question for many homeless individuals. On Friday, however, I joined United Way of Central Maryland and the Motor Vehicle Administration to distribute vouchers for IDs to approximately 100 people who waited on line at the Franciscan Center that day.

The MVA requires a social security card, birth certificate and two pieces of mail in order to distribute these vouchers. The vouchers certify that if the individual presents this piece of paper to the MVA he or she can skip the line and pay only one dollar for a Maryland state ID. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to hold on to all of these important documents for so many years, and they are unable to receive the voucher. For those who do not yet have enough materials to receive a Maryland state ID, we were able to distribute Baltimore City IDs. This ID has the person’s name, picture, date of birth, and an issue/expiration date, so it serves as the first step to receiving a social security card or birth certificate. This ID is also a document that can be presented to cops, which is extremely helpful for homeless people since they are often charged for loitering, public intoxication, and other minor offenses. Friday I edited, printed, cut, laminated, and distributed about 30 of these IDs, and it felt really fantastic to target a specific need and provide direct resources in order to address it.



Five. Point. Six!
The patient shot his fist into the air, and the room exploded into applause and cheers of encouragement.
Today I am observing a Life Balance and Weight Management Post-Core class. This is a course offered for patients at the clinic who are pre-diabetic and diabetic. It is a monthly follow-up to a previous weight loss nutrition program these patients were a part of.
The instructors started the class by asking the individuals to share their successes and worries. A common measure of how well a patient manages their diabetes is by recording their hemoglobin A1C levels (HbA1c). This reading tells physicians the individual's average blood sugar levels in the past couple of months by detecting how much sugar is coating your hemoglobin. A reading above 5.4% indicates pre-diabetes, while one above 6.4% indicates diabetes. The patient who spoke at the beginning of the session started the program because he had a HbA1c level of 6.2%, and he just received news that in a couple of months he has already brought it down to 5.6%. Yet despite being incredibly excited, he also recognized that he had more weight lose and more steps to take towards health.
My time at the clinic may not be focused purely upon large systemic changes for the city of Baltimore, but witnessing experiences like this makes me not only further appreciate what this center does for our residents, but it more importantly makes me feel confident that change starts at the individual level.


This week was the best yet! I got assigned a whole list of assignments and I am slowly making my way through them all. Although im still working from my cubicle in the office which I was not too excited about, it is great to have a change of pace and be able to keep busy with a variety of tasks. I feel like I;m beginning to find my place more in the office and am more comfortable being more independent and confident. The highlight of my week has been being trained to work the front desk and take phone calls and direct clients. I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to finally interact with the patients and practice my personal skills. If I had the choice, I would love to work at the front desk more often; however the two full time front desk employees might not like that too much. In the mean time, I've been covering for them as much as I can and trying to help out by doing the little tasks and having some fun.

I can't wait to do my CTR training next week and potentially hit the clinic and move away from the office a little bit!


I finally feel like its home.

Those who come to Hopkins from distant places often begin their educational journey here incredibly disconnected from the city that they will call their home. We live in carefully marked cocoons, with certain streets and landmarks unfairly determined to be figurative boundaries for not only our physical being, but our psychological being as well. Closed off to the deep, sometimes hidden beauty that surrounds us, we tend to live as tourists, making the city only recognizable by a day trip to the harbor or an evening at Fells Point. Our hearts seem to remain in the places we came from, never making the journey to a city that so needs and deserves them. This summer, unlike any experience I had during my first year at Hopkins, burst the bubble of disconnection for me. Walking through the streets of Baltimore, I feel more and more at home, and more and more proud of the place I hope is my home for many years to come.

In the poignant, enduring words of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri, “beauty awakens the soul to act.” This sentiment, profound through its striking candor, illustrates so succinctly the reason I have enjoyed this experience so much. I feel as though my soul is awakened to act every single day because of the beauty I see in the communities I am so blessed to work in. The beauty of McElderry Park community, its people, and it's incredibly inspiring history is what gives me passion, and what I believe is so deeply compelling about Baltimore. Throughout its history, this community has endured and fought back against systemic atrocities far removed from any understandable justification. Once deemed “crime-ridden,” and “undesirable,” this community has, through the work of its incredible residents, written a new story of progress and incredible change. McElderry Park is strong and getting stronger, with diverse and caring community members driven to make the places they call home safer, cleaner, and better every single day. One only has to attend a single community association meeting or block party to witness something truly special: the burning, infectious proclivity for positive change that thrives in the hearts of our community’s wonderful residents.

Throughout this experience, I have seen incredible inequities and incredible progress. I have seen loss and I have seen triumph. I, throughout these days, have been inspired by the people around me to continue to serve this city and its amazing people. Baltimore has accepted me and given me a home, and I can’t be more grateful.



The first session of camp ended in a whirlwind. Schedules were tight and some taught tempers were breaking. On the last morning, we made the only hot breakfast- breakfast tacos- for the campers. They always complained about the city food. They had every right.
That last day we took a field trip to Sandy Point Beach to go swimming and grill hotdogs. The weather was beautiful and the water was clear, cool, and full of jellyfish. It was like a free-range jellyfish sanctuary. Some were about the size of your ear, some had a body as long as your forearm and fingers. I had thought that once the first girl ran screaming from the water, the other kids would’ve followed suit. Not so- and not after the second and third girls were stung either. Or after one of the teachers was stung. Or one of the girls realized she was slightly allergic to jellyfish stings and got hives. Some campers and counselors who were stung were even playing in the water after they themselves had been stung. The jaws theme may well have played while a small army of baby sharks filled the water in and the kids may have kept on. I don’t mean to dwell- overall it was a lovely trip to the beach. Baffling, but lovely.
On the hot, hour-long bus ride back to the community center, the impressive six year old next to me seemed to have soaked up all the energy everyone else on the bus lacked.
“Name me five flowers that are yellow. Now five that are red. How many moons does Saturn have? I think it has 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69. Look it’s a forest! Now it’s road. Forest. Road. Park forest forest road.” It was a long bus ride and a short one. The kids were gone quicker than an attack force of jellyfish at Sandy Point can move in. We were all only ever meant to be together for a moment, but we sure had our moment. Nothing was as it should have been and our time together was bolder and stranger, the campers more brave and wonderful than they or any of it had the right to be.



Although I have had my worries about this internship feeling more like a job than an internship at times, it has definitely connected me to Baltimore in a whole new way. Part of that has been working for the city: Molly (my supervisor) always has a lot of information to offer about the Department of Transportation and the Department of Water, as well as the constant confusion about how Rec and Parks and Parks and People are related. This past week I worked with the boat program a lot, and met with community members in Windsor Hills about my project, which is on the conservation trail that they are in charge of maintaining. I’ve been thinking a lot about the end-- there are only three weeks left of this internship, and the question of whether or not I’ve made an impact is a big one. I have definitely learned a lot personally, and about Baltimore. Now I feel that I can bike anywhere, and more importantly, can guide anyone with questions about how to get outside and get access to gear in the city to the right place to fulfill their needs. The last Uber I got into, I talked to the driver the whole time about how she hasn’t ridden a bike in years, how her kids and grandkids want to try things like kayaking, biking, and maybe even climbing, and ended up writing down information about our programs for her in hopes that she will come out biking at Druid Hill or Montebello, or bring her son to open row on Friday so he can kayak. That conversation for one, made me very happy-- I was able to give someone information that hopefully helped her find a new way to have affordable, outdoor fun with her family, geared toward beginners and toward giving community members the toolbox that can help them be independent outdoors. On the other hand, though, it got me thinking about how we publicize things-- we have a lot of people who come out to our programs every week, who get to take full advantage of our resources and have a great time with their friends and family. There are many others, though, who don’t know that we offer free bike rentals, or free kayaking in the Cherry Hill pool every Saturday 1-3. There are so many things that Rec and Parks needs. Maybe that could be another way I could contribute! It’s awesome how many community members I see come back every single week, but it would be even more awesome to get new ones to come out and take advantage of the resources we can offer them.
On a somewhat unrelated note-- CIIP has got me thinking long and hard about how social change happens, and what being an activist means. Hearing Makayla, Kim, and Joe speak was thought-provoking in itself. Even more thought-provoking for me was the training that Makayla offered in civil disobedience last week, and her consequent action at Artscape this past weekend. It made me wonder what it’s ok for me to do and not do-- if I don’t go to one of her events, do I count as being against her cause? I may as well be, right? At the same time, her words and her actions can be carried into everyday life and work; they can travel outside of her actions, which is part of why they are so valuable. They and the people I’ve heard from and have met doing CIIP this summer have inspired me to rethink my way of behaving, to rethink my career and what I want to stand and work for. Rethinking is good; changing oneself is good, questioning one’s actions and thoughts and opinions is good. However, she’s also left me feeling that rethinking and questioning isn’t necessarily enough. I wonder if even volunteering and working within the community is enough. Then again, simply seeking what is “enough” is in itself wrong. If you’re just going for “enough,” for the bare minimum, you’re probably, well, not doing enough. At the same time, you can only put yourself into so many things, and you're not a very good person if you can't forgive others for what they don't do, nor are you going to be very mentally healthy if you can't forgive yourself your failings. I feel very caught between those two ideas at the moment. CIIP is about action and impact in the community, it’s true. However, CIIP’s action, as it is associated with a university, is very different from Makayla’s. It’s the type of action I am far more comfortable with, and it does great things-- just look at Joe and Kim, or at Molly, or at many others, who all work everyday within the system, often in such a way that they set themselves up against it, who bring good things to communities every day. However, we need outspoken outrage and activism to grow as people, to question ourselves, to have new ideas. What I will actually end up doing, and what I believe people’s obligations are, and what my own are, I’m not totally sure, but I am sure that I'm not going to stop thinking and worrying about it anytime soon.



As the mountains of logistical paperwork tied to Youthworks have finally begun to disappear, Andrew and I are increasingly more and more able to actually do our jobs. Providing student support and enhancing their experiences at their worksites was what we had hoped we would be able to do entering the process, and unfortunately, bureaucracy and crisis management took the wheel for the first month.
Prioritizing students who were being fired, arriving late and leaving work early, we were simply not able to allocate time to students who were showing up for the full time. Now having extinguished fires for the students who were having attendance issues, we are now seeing attendance issues from students who used to be rock solid. The sad part is that we only have ourselves to blame. A lot of these students who were excelling in Week 1 became bored of their work. Because we were not able to have conversations with them and their employers about why different projects were important, how sometimes you have to do work that you do not like, and how you can approach your supervisor to discuss the work if you do not understand it, many students have simply stopped showing up reliably.
A real frustration being a coordinator for Thread is that it is often difficult to communicate with the students directly. One student, who was placed at a more administrative job, quit because he did not like it. The employer was super flexible, and was open to discussing switching up the project and the hours. Nevertheless, after just a few emails back and forth with his volunteer, I was told that he would not be returning to work; no conversation with the student, no discussion about altering the work schedule, no conversation with employer. I felt like we could have made this work given flexibility on both the student and the employer’s part. The prevailing argument that was going around was that real jobs did not work that way.
Below is an excerpt from an email I wrote my Thread team after summing up what happened to the student:

“More broadly, one of the objections raised about allowing [Student Name] to come back to work had to do with the idea of that not being how real jobs work and that this would teach/set an unrealistic precedent for the future when our students do have full time work. While I think this is certainly true, I also want to highlight that this is also an internship and for many of the kids, their first job. While terminating a student may serve to teach them a lesson about how jobs work attendance-wise, there is also some added value of seeing something through and their having conversations with employers, as well as the experience gained through the work itself. With [Student Name], this latter half may not have been as potent because he really did not want to attend at all, but this same question about instilling life lessons by termination vs. working through the problems one week at a time has continued to come up. We have faced similar quandaries with [list of 5 student names] and more. A few of these cases have shown marked improvement and even excitement about their jobs after coming back to work in a more flexible schedule or on a different project.
We will continue to address each of these on a case by case basis given individual history/background and what might be going on outside the workplace; however, I think it is important that we address in a conversation either now or moving forward for next year how much we are emphasizing "job" and how much we are emphasizing "internship" for our students. Right now, Andrew and I have been operating under the "internship" understanding of what our kids are doing and have therefore been much more open to giving students multiple chances.”

Moreover, we want to be fair. Giving some students second chances while dropping the hammer on others is not equitable. I will continue to fight for my students in cases where I think the value of their coming back to work will outweigh the lesson taught by being fired. Yet, this is pure gut. How do you measure such a thing accurately? How do you predict?
My worst fear in this internship and this organization is that we are doing things that may end up hurting our students rather than helping them. While it is pretty easy to assess and attend to how we are neglecting or not following up with students/not giving them the help they need/deserve in the short term, I feel utterly ill-equipped to predict the long-term implications of my actions. Time will certainly tell, but because these are real people with real lives, that adage does not bear its normal ‘we’ll wait-and-see’ weight off the shoulders.


This past week marked the passing of the midway points of both my internship with CIIP and our students’ internships with MERIT. Typically, when you get to the midpoint of anything, it’s a good time to reflect on expectations and goals you had prior to it all.
According to my goal sheet at the beginning of the internship, I basically wanted to help teach the students and learn from my supervisors. These seemed like pretty simple goals at the time and thus far, I’m still actively working towards my goal. However, if there’s one thing I can confirm, it’s that teaching is extremely difficult. Even if all of the students you’re teaching are as bright as the ones that are enrolled in MERIT, teaching concepts and ensuring that students internalize them is a lot to handle. An important thing to consider is that students learn in a multitude of ways, with visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli. For the internship that we run for the students, we account for this by splitting the day between a lecture-style classroom and a laboratory setting. This approach has worked beautifully because not only do the scholars learn concepts from the labs, but also learn techniques they can utilize when they attend their research labs on the JHU medical campus.
In addition to learning differences, it is essential for teachers to consider the unique needs that each student requires. The only way to know what students need is to build relationships with them outside of the classroom. This is what makes teaching more than spewing out lessons; good teachers don’t just teach in the classroom, but guide their students outside of it. It’s a privilege to work with good teachers who place a priority on building relationships with the scholars. I’m looking forward to furthering my own relationships with the students and hope to effectively transfer some of the skills I’ve learned to activities I do in the future.


“There’s a tree growing in that house.”

Without looking, I laugh, thinking “that statement is classiccccc Mr. Z”. Z is one of my favorite teachers at HEBCAC YO, and in my eyes, he is also the center’s resident philosopher, spouting wisdom on anything from the dangers of social media (“We are all techgether,” he likes to say) to the benefits of riding your bike everywhere (he’s so committed to the cause he’s even got those funny little toe shoes!). So naturally, when he says there’s a tree growing in a house, I assume he’s trying to use this “tree” as some sort of extended metaphor for the children who are growing and learning there, or something like that.

But then I turn around.

“Oh my god. There is LITERALLY a TREE growing IN that house.”

And then, in near-perfect unison, one of the students (Jamal) and I, react to the sight before us with a stunned “oh SHIT.”

Because “house” is a loose term for the structure that lies before us. What clearly once was someone’s home is barely recognizable as a building now. The roof, windows, and door are all gone, leaving the inside completely visible. When Jamal and I do peek inside, we see that the internal infrastructure is nonexistent – the forces of nature have instead taken over, with wild roots and tall grass sprouting up everywhere. And most striking of all is the tree, at least a few feet taller than me, rising up out of the ground.

Every day, I walk from HEBCAC YO to the JHMI stop on Orleans Street to catch a shuttle back to Homewood campus. It’s an interesting walk - in the span of these five or six blocks, I see rows upon rows of newly constructed, luxurious townhomes on one side of me, and then decaying, abandoned homes or construction sites on the other. The difference is striking, but after 5 weeks of making this daily trip, I’ve grown accustomed to this jarring landscape, to the point where I don’t think twice about it. That is, until the tree in the house.

After pausing to investigate the home for a few seconds, Mr. Z, Jamal and I continue walking, an uneasy silence settling upon us.

“You know… I used to live a few blocks from here,” says Jamal, finally breaking the silence.

“How long ago was that?”

“Damn, a while ago now. That was the home I grew up in. We had to move when I was 10.”

Something about the earnestness of Jamal saying “we HAD to move” strikes me.

“What do you mean had to move?”

And then, I learn that Jamal and his family were forced to relocate as part of the city’s East Baltimore Development Initiative. The city reasoned that because nearly 70% of the homes in Jamal’s neighborhood were abandoned, it just made sense to slowly relocate the other 30%, and work to reconstruct the entire neighborhood. I think of the lives disrupted, the houses taken. I imagine a 10 year old Jamal, being told he needed to leave the only home he’d ever known, without even understanding why. His old home probably doesn’t look so different from the house with the tree.

The stride towards development in Baltimore city (and the disparities which it has created) is something that I have seen and heard repeatedly over the course of this summer, either through CIIP orientation, one of our weekly reflection sessions, or through my daily walk towards the JHMI shuttle. But I don’t really think about how this has affected the lives of the students I know and interact with every day, as well as thousands of other Baltimore city residents.

My focus so far this summer has singularly been oriented towards education. This makes sense, of course, as my organization is mainly geared towards supporting nontraditional students that the city’s educational system has failed. But in that walk through a quiet section in East Baltimore, it dawns on me that the disparities that ravage the city cannot be ascribed to the shortcomings of just education. My students have struggled with education, yes, but beyond that they have struggled with homelessness, poverty, neighborhood identities, amongst other things. If change is going to happen, it can’t just happen in one of these areas. While focusing on education is incredibly important, I realize that to affect real change, my view of the city needs to be expanded. I need a broader lens.

That evening, as I leave the center and set off on my daily trek for the JHMI, I put away my phone. I pay attention. I look around at the new homes around me, with their shiny hardwood flooring and fresh, vibrant paint. I look at the construction going on right across the street – a new park, above which hangs a billboard that promises, “New! Luxury Townhomes!” I can’t help but be reminded of orientation, when we were given a brief history of EBDI and the city’s (as well as Hopkins’) redevelopment initiatives. I remember someone’s words, that as we think of all the reconstruction and relocation, we have to ask ourselves – “who is it all for?”



When I am out petitioning for an Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the Baltimore city budget, I usually get one of three responses. Either they completely ignore me (which doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would), they quickly sign and move on, or we talk, sometimes for a LONG time, about the issue. This is probably my favorite part of being outside, in the heat, asking people to sign onto this effort. I never thought I would enjoy petitioning and engaging strangers in conversation on an important issue as much as I do, but I definitely think I've found a place where I thrive, where I am able to actively work toward a concrete goal while also learning so much about where people stand on this issue. Whether they completely disagree with me or are on my side and work in a similar field, each conversation teaches me so much about how other people think about the right to affordable housing in the vastly different perspectives that I encounter. Petitioning has become the perfect complement to sitting in an office and doing research, which is also valuable, but doesn't have the same type of gratification I get when I am outside, engaging with people about such a fundamentally important issue.


I always felt strange when a person talked about feeling "connected to the city." I never understood, and still do not understand, how one person can possibly feel connected to the thousands of others living in a city, all with unique experiences, culture, languages, and hardships. I have never felt connected to an entire city, even my hometown. However, I have felt connected to a community that I was a part of, such as my high school, a team, or a group of people. Considering this, I do not feel "connected' to the city of Baltimore because I am not sure what being "connected to a city" means. How can you be connected to something so large? Perhaps over the course of the internship I can ponder this conundrum.


This has been one of my most exciting weeks at the Office of the Public Defender. I had the chance to work on multiple interesting projects throughout the week. I have written summaries of cases, mapped out and tracked important case evidence, and conducted preliminary case research into an ambiguous legal issue, among others. Each of these projects have contributed to my understanding of the legal profession, and I have had the chance to contribute to some formative service efforts. My case research, for example, may result in contributing to an effort to assist in providing a client drug treatment. I enjoy knowing that I can find academic fulfillment in legal research while being comforted by a product that will help our clients. In fact, what I enjoy most about my internship is how each attorney allows me to get into the weeds in every issue. I have been encouraged at every step to stop working on projects to read important or famous cases, to ask questions, and to take my time on projects so that I can make them my own. I cannot say I expected to do the projects I have been given. I knew I would be able to substantive legal work, but not at the level I have been given. I love feeling like a part of the legal process, even if it means wading into the minutia of a case. I look forward to future internships where I can make a similar effort to get wrapped up in each case or project that I work on. In doing so, I feel a stronger connection to the client and the client’s case.


Parents. Most of us take them for granted. They are the spring from which we've all sprung. The "The Hobbit" to our "Lord of the Rings." (or the Silmarillion to our either of those I suppose). In any case, parents have immense influence on our lives, from genetics to determining environmental factors and how we handle relationships. I have never been so thankful for my parents, as flawed as they are, as any parents are, as I have been this summer. The incredible privilege of growing up in a stable home is in no way an isolated privilege. It is the confluence of many privileges, economic, social and otherwise. Regardless, I only began to realize how lucky I am by observing the challenges children face in less stable homes. Some of our clients literally have nowhere to go if they are not placed by either the Department of Juvenile Services or the Department of Social Services. Either these clients have lost a parent, or their parents are either unwilling or unable to care for them. The need is especially acute if they fall in the 18 to 21 age range. At age 18, a parent is legally obligated to do very little for their child. At age 18, the Department of Social Services will no longer place someone in a foster home. Our clients will be effectively homeless if they take this route, referred to a shelter of some kind. Alternatively a client can continue to participate in the programs prescribed for them by the Department of Juvenile Services, which can work towards independent living and job training skills. They are placed in the bizarre situation of having to accept the stigma and restriction DJS in order to avoid living on the streets. This systematic deficiency is one of many in our world, one of many in the justice system alone. As always, there is very little I can do to fix it.



I had another great week at the Eubie Blake Center! I applied for my first grant, which isn't that exciting simply because I know I'll be writing grant applications for the rest of my life. I procrastinated writing it for a while because I'm always afraid to try new things and I'm terrified of rejection. I'm glad that I've submitted it and that I can add grant writing to my growing list of skills. I haven't gotten to do to much work in the Eubie Gallery, so I was really excited when my boss told me that I'm curating our October exhibit. I've decided to have an October Open Show, where we will feature young artists of color who haven't been exhibited in the Eubie Gallery before. I've already enjoyed working with the people I reached out to thus far, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the show turns out. I want to host a show where conversations about race, violence, gender, police, etc. are had. By refusing to shy away from controversial topics, the Eubie Blake Center can be a meeting space to confront these difficult topics and to have tough conversations that will hopefully bring us closer together as a community. I'm not really artistically gifted myself, so one of the perks of my job has been the proximity to live talent. I want to be able to use my platform to bring exposure to artists of color who find it more difficult to promote their work in white spaces. Obviously the arts scene in Baltimore is racially segregated, and I want to make sure the center is doing everything it can to support artists of color. Besides the October Open Show, I'm also excited to host an upcoming community visioning session with Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District, the arts district where the Eubie Blake Center is located. We will be inviting our community members and constituents in order to learn about the needs and desires of the community. After the visioning session, I think my boss and I will be able to better plan our fall schedule because we'll know what the community wants to see. I'm looking forward to the chance to better engage with community members, and I hope this session will give us a better idea of what the future holds for the Eubie Blake Center.


For this fifth week of CIIP, I decided to shake up my routine. I began the week having moved out of the dorms and into an off-campus which made me feel a little bit more a part of Charles Village and a veritable city dweller (in addition to being just a Hopkins student). Living even just a few blocks closer to my worksite--in conjunction with trying to better understand the neighborhoods around school--resulted in a growing inclination to commute by walking as opposed to biking to 901 Arts . To be fair, I rode my bike some mornings since it's easy to bring around/use for work errands and also because zooming down the steep hills of Better Waverly streets has become part of a daily tradition. But crossing over from Greenmount and onto Montpelier in the mornings and at night after work, I'm able to see faces new and old that I had overlooked in biking to work. I don't want to attribute all of this to means by which I commuted, but this week I began to really understand how 901 Arts functions as a arts center for the neighborhood. When it's a 98 degree day and it's too sweltering to go to the field--or so one would infer by the stories of sandals melting into the pavement outside--parents come to 901 Arts and sit on the bench in the front hallway to relax, cool off and talk for a bit while their children head to the back to play on the drum machine or work on their ongoing art projects. There are so many people that linger in the main room of 901 Arts each day--I don't get a chance to talk to anyone for too long, but it speaks to how friendly the parents are that wave to me when I'm in the neighborhood.

When I don't have the time during the day to play a game with the kids at camp because I'm doing a million and one other tasks, it feels extra rewarding to be greeted by "Ms. Sophie!" and a sea of hugs on my walk back home. Earlier in the week, I didn't think that any of the kids really knew me that well since, even though I'm around during the day, I'm not exactly their counsellor. Sometimes I would try to force conversations so that they knew who I was. But sitting on the bus on our Friday trip to Artscape helped me get a better understanding of how I interact with kids, how the campers interact with one another, and when to decide the best time to chime into their conversations vs. when it's better to sit back and just listen. This summer, I'm learning that teaching material to kids is challenging for me. But just because teaching is a challenge doesn't mean that kids don't have a lot to say, and doesn't mean that I should let my past frustrations get in the way of getting to understand the kids' perspectives.


This past Monday, I was ready to go to bed at 8:30. I had worked until 2 AM the night before and could feel myself physically buckling due to a sleep deficit.

When I got home from my second job, I immediately sprawled out in bed, taking no account of the laundry and various personal affects scattered atop the mattress. Relief at last.

Buzz buzz. My iPhone – lodged haplessly under the pillow I was resting my head on – gravely heralded what was surely some yet-unrecognized responsibility or neglected friend. My sleepy inertia gave way to a mild, curious annoyance. I brought the phone level to my face, inches away from my straining eyes.

A text from Ignacio, my lead artist and day-to-day de facto boss. It read something like:

“Hi Simon, sorry to butter you, but I am hoping we can paint again tomorrow night.”

At least I’m getting a good buttering.

This text humorously encapsulated two of the major difficulties I had this past week: fatigue and a communication lapse/language barrier. After volunteering more of my time than I had bargained for helping to trace the mural late at night over the weekend, I was confronted with a full workweek of days that started at 7:30 AM and ended at 8:00 PM, split between my internship and my part-time AV job. On top of that, Ignacio was doggedly pushing for more volunteer painting shifts.

Even though I had communicated to Ignacio that I’m 100% there for the mural, I had to take a step back this week and communicate to him and my site supervisor, Nora, that the extra work was cutting into my personal life and sleep schedule. I definitely wasn’t the only intern who was feeling this way, so this led to a broader discussion about work/life balance and other expectations. I can’t help comparing this to a union negation in my imagination, for drama’s sake, but it really wasn’t a huge deal. Heading into next week, I’m expecting a bit more notice about volunteer nights, and the other interns and I feel more comfortable turning down extra hours for the sake of maintaining ourselves outside of work.



It was 3 o'clock on Thursday afternoon. We had two hours left in the day. My group of four students is in a semi-circle. One sits restlessly behind a desk, waiting impatiently to act out her role again. Another stands behind the camera. A third holds a zoom recorder, and the last holds a boom pole longer than he is tall, and insists on hitting a pipe that runs through the ceiling with it. I called his name out yet again.
I had already said this student's name approximately 52 times that day, and we were both equally annoyed by this fact. It was at this moment that I realized what an odd age middle school students are at, and how much I needed to improve my ability to work with them.
The week was not bad, let me start by saying that. I just have not worked with middle schoolers in a while and had forgotten how they work. I forgot that middle school is the age when it's cool to be angsty about everything. The angst reached the point that I had to stop the group's video shoots and editing a few times to remind students that you do not have to tell others they are bad at everything to make yourself good at something; that it is enough to be good at something. That it is even better to tell others what they are good at, too. It doesn't discredit your abilities in any way, and that is the beauty of being good at things. There are enough roles in filmmaking that everyone can, and needs to be, good at many different things to make the project work.
My goal moving forward next week is to find a way to help the students focus, even on those days when it's too stormy or hot to go outside, so that they can get the most out of the workshops. Looking back I realize I came into the week with the same mindset I had for the high school students during the weeks prior. While the middle school students are still talented, they are much less experienced and I need to be able to provide more guidance throughout the project to ensure students do learn from the week and hopefully enjoy the process in the meantime.