YOUTH & FAMILY WELLNESS

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CHIJIOKE ORANYE - PATTERSON PARK, WEEK 6

have 2 weeks left, I keep telling myself. How can I make the most of it? It’s weird, not only is it going to be 99 degrees this next 2 weeks, but I’m also moving from Baltimore to Baltimore county. I’ve never moved in my life since I immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. and that was 10 years ago. I’m scared. I’m scared because my father and my brothers lack communication. I’m scared because I’ve already spent 10 years fitting in to my neighborhood in Chinquapin Parkway. I’m scared because it takes me an hour and 30 minutes to get to work, when I live in the city…but now that I live even further in Baltimore county how much longer will it take?
I know this week will be challenging for me. And my biggest advice to myself is to take things bit by bit. Sometimes I feel as though prioritizing my kids at the camp over all else will force me to spend less time having my family move. And although this can’t be helped to a certain extent, I feel like I’ll be losing bonding time with my family. But I got to take things bit by bit.

EILEEN RAMIREZ - ESPERANZA CENTER, WEEK 6

Last week we had these two boys come in to see the doctor. They were close in age, maybe two or three years apart, and behaving as brothers typically do – hitting each other, messing around, and listening to their mom when she tells them to stop for a total of five seconds before starting up again. I couldn’t help but laugh at their antics and wonder if that’s what my own brothers were like. Due to our large age gap, I didn’t get to know my brothers as kids, only as pre-teens or really even as teenagers and now adults. So seeing the two boys, for me, was like getting a glimpse at what life was like way back then pre-my-existence.

Then the mom asked to speak with Wardi who handles patient referrals and stuff of that nature at the clinic. And then the mom started sharing the story of how the older of the two boys was bullied at school and during one instance, had to be taken to the emergency room because his injuries were so bad. Then the boy talked about how he kept getting picked on afterward, how the teachers knew what happened but they didn’t care for him so no one did anything. Next thing I knew, Wardi was asking him things like, “does any teacher there speak Spanish,” and “do you know what bullying is”. Finally, she showed me his report card with not-so-great grades but every teacher commenting how they know the boy can do better.

So here was this boy being bullied for being a Latino immigrant whose first language is not English, who lives in a neighborhood where there are barely any Latinos, who has to go back to that school unless they somehow get the money to be able to move, who isn’t getting the help he and every other kid in this situation deserves.

And all I could think was, this could have easily been my brother.

AYESHA SHIBLI - MARYLAND OUT OF SCHOOL TIME NETWORK, WEEK 6

This past weekend I had a conversation with a friend’s aunt which reminded me yet again why I love what I do. She spoke to me about her children’s love of reading, and the family’s emphasis on reading together and reading aloud. I then told her about my position as a counselor with SummerREADS, explaining that it was these key elements of literacy that drive organizations like MOST to bring these experiences to everyone, regardless of income or family structure.

I am very aware of my own privilege each time I walk into my school and say good morning to my students. My childhood summers were not spent in my elementary school but rather in summer programs my mother registered me for, all of which prevented me from the feared “summer slide” common among students who do not have access to such programs outside of school time. My love of reading was built upon these summers which gave me the opportunities to be exposed to new materials through trips to my local bookstore and library. I realize this experience is not something I can recreate in a single summer with every student, but I have been pushing myself to help create a space that builds a love of books in my students.

Of course, this is a little difficult when I’m faced with students who struggle with reading or are just not interested. How do I share my passions without it seeming foisted upon them? How do I stress that love it or not, literacy is an extremely important skill for all areas of life, without my privilege coloring my understanding of the world? One of the most important lessons I learned this summer came from one of the program coordinator of SummerREADS, Tanisha Owens. As I was sitting with a student who was holding a book above her reading level, Tanisha reminded me that there are three main ways for a student to read a book: 1) actually reading it, 2) “rereading” a book by memorizing the words or the story and following along or 3) looking at the pictures to understand the story or create a new one. Each of these ways, she said, keep the student physically engaged with the book, get the student interested.

NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT

TARAH FITZGERALD - UNITED WORKERS, WEEK 6

When I was in 7th grade I got Lyme Disease. It took 6 months to find and as a result my mind wanders and my short term memory is nearly non-existent. Forgetting names and faces has been something that I have gotten used to. Memories of entire conversations, even people, have been easily wiped from my memory numerous times and I have accepted this as a reality I must face. This challenge has never been so apparent as it is now, having 6 weeks completed at my placement. Working as an intern at United Workers, I am assisting experienced community organizers in a way that feels far more independent than I had imagined. I am a direct contact for several projects and am a face of partnership in the Remington community. I am privileged to have this role, however with it comes great responsibility. As a community organizer certain skills are essential to do the job well. You have to be respectful, have to be an attentive listener, and you most certainly have to remember who you met, talked to, and what the content of that conversation was. I have been approached and have approached several people now that, as a professional in my field, I would have had to have remembered or recognized. However, community organizing also requires meeting and talking with hundreds of people. Mix this requirement with my Lyme Disease side effects and you would think it would be a recipe for disaster. However, despite my few embarrassing encounters, I believe I have finally started to develop skills to combat these challenges and still succeed in my job. I am starting to remember more faces, and continue old conversation with more ease. I have grown to be more confident in my ability to overcome this challenge I have faced for nearly 8 years. I am slowly breaking down the walls of my perceived reality to find that my bounds are far more reaching than I could have imagined.

HOMELESSNESS & POVERTY

KEENAN CASWELL - MAYOR'S OFFICE OF HUMAN SERVICES, WEEK 6

It's hard to believe that only two weeks remain of my time as a member of the Homeless Services Program. The past six weeks have provided me with priceless learning experiences, eye-opening interactions with service providers and coworkers, and a platform to continue my involvement as a community member in Baltimore. However, now isn't the time to look to what I can do in a couple of months as a student but rather to focus on what I can continue doing while I am still a part of the incredible team and working in this one of a kind environment. With the go ahead from my supervisor, my primary responsibility for the last two weeks will be leading refresher trainings over Coordinated Access with as many service providers and navigators that I am willing to fit in. Gabby sent out this update to all navigators on Wednesday afternoon, I've just returned from my first training at Loving Arms this Friday morning which means one down and 12 to go before August 3rd. For those unfamiliar with Loving Arms, it’s a community based organization that provides short term shelter and supportive services to youth who are runaway, homeless, unstably housed and/or at risk of becoming homeless, and their families. As I stepped out of my Uber in Gwynn Oak, I scanned the two houses to my left and neither were 3313 Oakfield Avenue but instead 3311 and 3315. A bit confused, I began to walk down the street to see if I could spot a sign or indication of which house was Loving Arms. Luckily, a stranger was walking towards me and before I could even get a word out he yelled out, “Brother, you look like a fish out of water. How can I help you?” After agreeing with him, I asked if he knew where Loving Arms was and not only did he know where it was, in fact, he was a navigator who would be a part of the training that I would lead 30 minutes later. Not two seconds after he greeted me on the sidewalk, we walked up to 3313 Oakfield Avenue and into a living room filled with the smell of bacon and eggs. He sat me down at the table with a group of teenagers and two counselors where he introduced me to the group. But first, I apparently needed to have some breakfast before getting started. He didn’t ask if I was hungry or worry if there was enough place for another person, he served me up a generous plate of eggs, crispy bacon, and a tall glass of OJ. This was more than a community shelter, this was a family and I was invited to be a part of it after only meeting the man 30 seconds ago. I would wrap up the training a couple hours later and say my goodbyes to the group of counselors and navigators, but I left with the impact of his generosity. He and his fellow coworkers are on the ground, day in and day out, to improve the lives of as many youth as they can handle. If the training I lead this morning is able to facilitate a more efficient process of getting these youth and their families into housing, then I’ve done my job. A job that might end in a couple of weeks as a member of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, but will continue as a student at Johns Hopkins.

SAM PAEK - YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY, WEEK 6

Last week was really good. I think I've started establishing more relationships with the youth here and really getting into the groove of things. The only thing I'm upset about is that just as I'm getting super comfortable and learning how everything works, I'm about to leave. It kind of sucks, because I feel like it's only recently that I've started making positive contributions to the program, and understanding how the real stuff goes down behind doors (aka case management). Nonetheless, I'm thankful for my time here and really look forward to my last two weeks as a CIIP intern. Maybe I'll come back next year to volunteer! Who knows.

VICTORIA LUI - THE FRANCISCAN CENTER, WEEK 6

“Victoria, how many weeks do you have left before you leave us?” asked Ms. D.

“August 5th is my last day, so I have two more weeks here.”

“That’s so soon! I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone. Before we know it, we’ll both be back at school studying and forgetting to eat!”

Whenever I have some free time, I like to walk around the center and talk with the other staff members should they have some time. They’re all very welcoming and enjoy it when I make conversation with them. Six weeks into the internship, I can say that I’ve gotten pretty close with some of the staff members. Ms. D is one of those staff members.

Ms. D works in the computer room where she helps our clients learn how to use the computer, write resumes and get jobs. Although she has started her family and worked at the Franciscan Center for several years, she is a student. Because she was a student, I was able to relate to her more than the other staff members.

Today after working in the food line, I walked over to the computer room to say a quick hello. We exchanged some words before I went up to my “office” to finish some work for my supervisor. But before I left, Ms. D told me that even after I leave in two weeks, I would always have a place at the Center. “You’re family now” she said. “If you ever need anything, you can always come to one of us and we’ll support you.”

It really meant a lot to me to hear Ms. D say that. I’ve gotten to know some staff members really well after working with them for so long. I’ve even got the chance to know some regular clients. I’ve been able to recognize regular clients and when I call them by their name, they grin from ear to ear. I really feel like I have become a part of this family at the Franciscan Center. I only have two weeks left at the Center, but I will be a member of this family for years to come.
 

HEALTHCARE & HEALTH POLICY

VICTORIA CHEN - CHASE BREXTON, WEEK 6

This week was a whirlwind of packing, fanfares, and rainbows. Though this was my second year marching in the pride parade and tabling at the block party, the entire weekend was still such a fresh and eye opening experience. Seeing the enormous turnout of support and allyship for the LGBTQ+ community as people lined up and down North Charles Street--their cheers drowning out the background of self-righteous protestors--was such an empowering sight. As I threw rainbow beads into the crowd, I couldn't help but think of the sheer bravery and courage that people have had to muster just to live their authentic selves. Though Mt. Vernon is locally known as the gayborhood, it's easy to forget that not everyone in this city is as tolerant and accepting. From neighbors who leave aggressive notes about front yards being "relentlessly gay" to the targeted hate crimes against transwomen of color, working within the LGBT health resource center has reminded me daily of the blatant discrimination that many still face.

Marriage equally is far from the end of this fight. People all over the nation are constantly being questioned, judged, and persecuted for their sexual orientation and gender expression--especially if they don't identify with L, G, B, or T. Recently, I overheard a staff member from another community organization mock the term "Lithromantic," which is a person who experience romantic love but does not want their feelings to be reciprocated. Perhaps it's inconceivable to him, but somebody out there worked hard for that word, and truly identifies with all that it encompasses. So naturally, I was mad when he said, "why would anyone ever want that for themselves? That just sounds lonely." Because honestly, why do we care how others perceive themselves? Why do we feel like we have the authority and power to pass judgement on someone else's identity? But most importantly, why do we as a society feel this desperate need to categorize everyone--to fit people into straight-edged boxes.

Being an ally does not mean knowing what all of the letters mean in LGBTQIA+, because who people identify themselves is fluid and constantly changing. I've realized now, more than ever, that being an ally simply means being open to learning and accepting. Because honestly, who people choose to love and how people want to dress does not concern anyone else but themselves. So my hope for the world is that all people will eventually pull their heads out of their butts and realize that people's lives are their OWN.

LUCINDA CHIU - JOY WELLNESS CENTER, WEEK 6

Coming into CIIP, I was most excited to not only volunteer at a holistic healing center focused on serving an uninsured population, but to create my own programs at this site. This week, I was finally able to teach my first nutrition class. The focus of my hour and a half was to discuss why sugar is necessary for our bodies, but detrimental at high dosages, as well as physically measuring out the grams of sugar in foods we don't normally suspect to be chock full of it.
Though my class consisted of only four patients, the atmosphere was intimate and conversation flowed easily. While writing my lesson plan I was worried we would run out of things to say. At the end of each section, however, whether we were comparing glucose and sucrose, discussing natural sweeteners, or guessing the amount of sugar in a can of Coca-Cola, I was impressed by the amount of questions they asked me, their self-motivation to take notes, and most importantly, how they gave advice to each other. It was also challenging, however, to explain concepts, such as dopamine release, to explain how sugar acts in the brain. I found myself relying on metaphors and working cooperatively with my students to help those confused better understand the topic.
The second part of my food demo was an interactive cooking demonstration, where we paired homemade tomato sauce and sautéed vegetables with whole grain spaghetti. Everybody participated, and together we sat down and ate our home-cooked meal, almost like we were family. While reflecting on the class, three of the patients told me that though they normally disliked carrots, mushrooms, and sweet red bell peppers, respectively, after cooking it themselves and trying it again tonight, they found they weren't so bad at all. Witnessing that providing the environment and resources to these patients was enough for them to go ahead and try eating healthy, inspires me to continue tackling the social, economical, and political barriers to their access to fresh produce.

POONAM GUPTA - STAR TRACK, WEEK 6

This week was Pride week! (Mostly) everything that I'd been preparing for in the last 4ish weeks has been leading up to the events we had this past week, the major ones being our Gay Skate, Free Ball, and the Youth Zone at Pride. This week was definitely challenging because of the longer hours, and halfway through I really began to question the point of all our events. Gay Skate was our first event, and after preparing tons of materials and practicing my tabling schpiel, I was really excited for the event, which ultimately didn't have a huge turnout. This was also the trend for the Karaoke Night, and the staff was so busy that we weren't able to attend the SpeakFire Panel Series the next day. However, our Free Ball had a huge turnout! I was finally able to meet loads of different people and seeing the crazy amount of skill people have when it comes to vogueing was so fun to watch.

I think the hardest part of this week was Saturday, the day of Pride. Given that it was so hot, just making it through the entire day was really difficult and the heat exhaustion made me count down the hours until it was finally over. But, as we finally began to pack up at around 9pm and the final singers were going on stage, I had my first moment of clarity. Even though I was exhausted from the heat and running around, and had spent almost the entire day thinking about myself, I looked around to all the smiling attendees of Pride and thought about what this was for them. It was a place for those that felt like they didn't have a place in society to feel comfortable, to feel recognized, and to just love freely. This was finally a time where they could express themselves however they chose and with whomever they chose with 0 judgment -- something I take for granted everyday. Nobody was asking them why they were dressed a certain way, what their "real names" were, if it was "just a phase" or "something they'd grow out of." It didn't really matter how hot it was that day or all the little things that seemed to be going wrong like missing face paint or a lost banner. At the end of the day, Pride was what we should aim to always have everywhere and everyday! A place where people can love who they want to love, dress how they want to dress, and just be who they want to be.

JOYCE LIN - CHASE BREXTON, WEEK 6

The first half of the week I completed the HIV testing and counseling training in order to get my certification to conduct rapid HIV tests and Pre/Post HIV test counseling. It was an incredible opportunity and consisted of 3 full day informative sessions about HIV in the state. Even if I don't get to do much testing at Chase Brexton before my internship ends, I feel like I learned a lot both about HIV facts and interpersonal interactions with patients. I'm every excited to shadow some rapid tests and maybe start testing on my own in the near future. But first I am still waiting on the state to issue me my counselor number before I can start testing.

Aside from the HIV testing training, I have also been helping with pre-Pride set up and organization, making condom packs and collecting inventory. I have also been getting the chance to work more often covering the front desk which is a great change of pace. I have been enjoying every opportunity to leave my computer and interact with clients either it be over the phone or in person, over the counter.

Looking forward to conducting my first test!
 

VIJAY RAMASAMY - CHARM CITY CLINIC, WEEK 6

"It's going to be a fast eight weeks so make the most of every minute."

That was one of the main themes of orientation and every time someone said it, I couldn't help thinking to myself 'There is no way an 8 entire weeks is going to go by fast, August 6th seems a world away.'

Boy, was I wrong.

As we quickly approach less than two weeks left, I am really starting to feel the time crunch. The block party project Tommy and I began is in full swing, and we have less than a month to get the word out to the community. The most important part of this project will be outreach to individuals and families who need the services we are providing the most, and we need to work extra hard over the next couple of weeks if we want to meet our goal of 100 attendees.

I never really realized how difficult it is to plan an event until we started this process. You have to take care of everything, from water coolers to sponsor ships, to flyers and tables. It is going to be hard work, but we are ready for the challenge.

In terms of day to day clinic operations, I am feeling the time pressure as well. My co-workers who are a part of the AmeriCorps program are beginning to leave, meaning that in a short period of time there will only be 2 full time employees at the clinic. Even though I will still be volunteering at the clinic after my internship, I want to make sure that all my clients have their main needs met before I leave. It will be a hectic next couple of weeks as I work with my supervisor to complete any remaining clinic duties and fulfill major clients needs but again, I feel like I am ready for the challenge. These past six weeks have been incredibly wonderful, and I have a renewed motivation to finish strong, not just for me but for the many incredible people who have supported me along this process.


 

FOOD ACCESS & THE ENVIRONMENT

HANNAH FARKAS - BALTIMORE GREENSPACE, WEEK 6

Although the heat was sweltering this past week, I still enjoyed my time spent in the maze of plant beds and fruit trees that is Duncan Street Miracle Garden. I have been working here once a week since the start of my internship, under the guidance of the over 70-year old Mr. Sharpe. Mr. Sharpe is a soft spoken, straw hat wearing farmer that started this garden in 1988 on land previously occupied by over 40 vacant houses. He knows the plants like the back of his hand and spends every day except for Sunday alternating between caring for these plants and cooling off in the shade of his fruit trees. He knows and says good day to every single neighbor that walks by the garden and many neighbors take a few minutes out of their day to help with some weeding or planting. After he harvests his produce, Mr. Sharpe donates every piece of produce to either his community church or his neighbors, anyone who drops by and wants some fresh vegetables. In a city where food deserts are one of the leading public health concerns, I am extremely grateful to be able to witness a passionate resident dedicating his life to providing his community with fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. I will genuinely miss ending each week by spending 8 hours in this east Baltimore oasis, working towards a more sustainable food system.

WILLAH PEERS - BY PEACEFUL MEANS, WEEK 6

As I walked in to Johnston Square on my first day at the second site of Peace Camp I was bewildered by a huge, old, blue-gray roof looming over the highway. I couldn’t place the sight of this historic building in the mental map I had of the area. As I crossed the highway, however, the dark stone walls of the building slid into view. My stomach dropped, and I recognized the recently abandoned city prison. The prison was first constructed in 1801, and has had a long and sordid history in the community. Last year the prison closed down due to corruption and unacceptable living conditions.
Before the prison closed, my boss told me that they would hear shouts coming from inside the grounds and prison numbers being called. The nuns at the St. Frances Academy used to tell their students that they could be here at school, or over there in the City Detention Center. One teacher said she tried not to notice it, but she thought that the neighborhood itself was not affected by the closing of the prison. Another said that she had heard that the prison would be turned into a museum. This was controversial because some worry that it would glorify the corruption in the prison system and the school to prison pipeline.
No matter who I asked, there was a different story. The Baltimore City Detention Center is an undeniable factor in the landscape and history of the neighborhood, and oftentimes it is for the worse. As the week progressed, however, the old building weighed on me less and less. The campers are just kids. My class is calm and kind and many of them are surprisingly analytical thinkers. Some of them need Peace Camp, and all of them deserve it. This week I have been so grateful to be among those bringing it to them.
 

VERONICA REARDON - URI, WEEK 6

I have been thinking a lot about the end of my internship. If there are loose ends with my project, I'm definitely going to continue working until they are all taken care of. And I plan on going to see my coworkers at programs and on helping out if I have time and Molly needs help with a program. However, I'm not a permanent part of Rec and Parks, and both I the people I work with are very aware of that, especially in the bike program.
Last week we talked about it for a little bit. All the guys I do Rides Around with held a vote, and voted for me not to leave.
"It's a democracy, guess you've got to stay!" D and T shouted out of the city truck window when they dropped me off after Rides Around on Thursday.
It was mostly just part of messing with me like they usually do, with a lot of talking shit and teasing, but DW also said he'd miss me the other week, and I still felt kind of loved because of it. I'll miss them too. On another note, being a temporary person from a privileged institution working with people who work for Rec and Parks more permanently is an interesting position to be in. Any issues they may have with how programs are run or how coworkers communicate will continue, while I'll be able to step away from it all at the end and never deal with it again if I so choose. It's a nice situation to be in, although I feel that my impressions of Rec and Parks and the things that I do to try to improve it have limited meaning because of it. It also changes the relationships I've developed, because as far as they know they won't see me after August 6. I plan on going to Montebello to see them every Saturday or so, but the semester is always busier than I think it will be, and promises like that are hard to keep-- promises that demand time instead of work or money or something of that nature.

EDUCATION

CALEB WARREN - THREAD, WEEK 6

How do you fire someone?
These are words I wished I had typed into Google or asked people at my organization before I stepped into a meeting that I arranged last week. A high-school student working at a lab on the medical campus had been chronically late, inconsistent with attendance and was bored at his worksite. [To protect his anonymity, the student’s name has been replaced with Jason].
Jason had perfect attendance the first week. He arrived early and was curious about his work and was diligent. The lab spoke highly of him and was looking into taking him on during the year. However, once he figured out that he would be doing mostly organizational work for the lab, his performance slipped. Jason took long lunch breaks, skipped days without telling his employer and came up with new excuses every day. Despite several conversations between Jason and his supervisor about meeting basic chronological work expectations and being engaged, his attendance and attention issues persisted. Over the course of two weeks, I worked with an assistant in his lab to come up with other projects he might be able to work on that would be more interesting. After learning that Jason was in summer school as well, we worked with him to set up a shortened schedule so that the day would not be so long. Jason agreed to all of this. When I heard that the latest effort had fallen through and that he had yet again texted saying he would not be there, I was concerned. When I found out he was at the placement’s cafeteria hanging out with friends, I knew that that was the final straw. To continue to accommodate and try to be flexible would not serve Jason well in the long run. My blog last week detailed how being too lenient can set unrealistic expectations for students for their future jobs. In most jobs, if you do not show up for two days, you will be fired. If you are late more than a few times, you will be fired. If you stop doing the work because you find it boring, you will be fired. Despite his placement being an internship, he had exhausted our exceptions. Firing him would serve as a lesson, or so I thought.
I walked into an office of a lab on the top floor of a Med Campus Building followed by the PI, the lab assistant, Jason and Jason’s volunteer. We all sat down in what cannot have been more than a 10x10ft office and everyone looked at me. It was in this split second that I realized I had absolutely zero clue what I was doing. I had mentally prepared what I wanted to say beforehand, but seeing Jason sitting across from me in a chair, head down and looking and texting in his lap stunned me.
Here was a fifteen year old student who had failed all of his classes and had lost both his parents. He faced food insecurity and relied on the city sponsored bus pass to get to work. From what I could tell, he needed this job and moreover, he had demonstrated that he could do it very well during the first week. The lab was ready to train and “open new doors” into different careers. They were all hands on deck. And yet, for one reason or another Jason did not see it that way. I felt utterly ill-equipped understand where he was coming from. Did we (my organization) set him up to fail? But then how do you explain why he did the job so perfectly the first week?
I went through explaining why the placement was not working, how we had been lenient and had had these conversations before, how he was not meeting the bare workplace expectations, and how the lab had gone out of their way to devote time and energy to accommodating him and training him. Jason did not say a word. I did not want to use the words “fired” so I settled on “you will not be able to return to work here.” The PI chipped in for a bit, asked him to put away his phone a few times when he pulled it out as she was talking, and then I told him he could pick up his paycheck at the next Professional Development session. What proceeded then was one of the most uncomfortable silences in my life.
For what felt like 30 seconds, we all sat there with no one really knowing what to do. It was clear that the conversation was over, but no one made any moves. Realizing that no one was going to say anything, I asked Jason if he brought any bags and if he could go get them with his volunteer. They did, and that was that.
I am still processing this entire experience even though it happened about a week ago. Who messed up? Did we fail Jason? Even if it can be boiled down to Jason’s being 15 and thinking it is okay to arrive late and not do work you do not like, how can that be Jason’s fault given his upbringing and what he has gone through? At what point does responsibility get assigned to the individual for lack of initiative and at what point does it get attributed to the circumstances? Does it really matter whose responsibility it is? What’s next for Jason?
 

ANDREW JOHNSON - THREAD, WEEK 6

I was sitting in the Thread think tank, sniffling and sneezing my way through a meeting concerning our end of the summer symposium, when I noticed that my phone was buzzing. The call was from one of our employers informing me that a student had abruptly stormed out of the worksite after a confrontation with one of their superiors. The student, who I will refer to as Scott for the sake of this piece, is a bit of an enigma. He can be a bit abrasive at times, is highly emotional, and will get in your face and express his opinions with ease if angered. During our 1st professional development seminar, he blurted out inappropriate comments, and he flat out refused to enter the auditorium at the 2nd event. When I asked him to fill out a form during one of these meetings, he filled it out begrudgingly and slammed it down on the table when he was finished, spilling his drink all over our sign in sheets and my computer in the process.
These events certainly muddled my opinion of Scott, yet some of his anger and disdain was certainly warranted. Thread has dropped the ball on Scott on a number of occasions; his volunteers are not very responsive, and his jobsite had to be changed at the last minute this summer after an employer backed out. Thread has failed Scott in some ways, but Scott has certainly not failed us, despite any of those incidents I have mentioned. I can wholeheartedly say that Scott has been one of the best workers I’ve had under my supervision this summer. He arrives early or on time every day, has completed his tasks successfully, and has regularly taken initiative. Working with many kids with special needs, Scott has emerged as a leader, role model, and friend to these students. He is friendly with his coworkers, and has yet to miss a day of work.
That’s why that phone call caught me so off guard. Despite his hotheaded disposition at times, nothing that I had seen so far from him at work would suggest he blow up like this. It was nearly 5 pm, and I knew that I needed to reach out to him and see what had happened. However, just like clockwork, he arrived to the Thread office after work, something he does nearly every day. We talked, and he revealed that one of his superiors routinely asked him to meet with visitors and talk about his role at the organization. While Scott is an outgoing individual, he does not like being put on the spot, as it makes him very uncomfortable. After an interaction with visitors that was less than spectacular, the superior had pulled Scott aside and berated him for not behaving properly. Not liking the accusatory nature of her tone, Scott stormed out of the worksite before he did or said anything inflammatory. He told me that Thread could do what they needed to from a disciplinary perspective. I told him that no disciplinary action was appropriate, that while it was an issue he had stormed out without notifying anyone, I was still proud that he had displayed restraint and removed himself from a toxic situation. We agreed that I would accompany him to work the following day, so that a sit down meeting could occur between him and his direct supervisor concerning the incident.
Parts of my internship this summer have been discouraging. Sometimes it feels like my employers are not attentive to my correspondence or our events and programming. I feel like I have largely been unable to prevent students from being dismissed from their jobs, despite efforts to set up meetings and attempts at finding solutions. However, the meeting that I sat in on between Scott and his supervisor restored my faith in the good that this program is capable of producing. I saw a student who resolutely trusts his boss with even the most sensitive and personal information about his home life. I also witnessed a boss who truly gets it. She talked about how their organization tries to be as understanding and accommodating as possible; they view these summer jobs as learning experiences on the path to full time employment. While it was wrong for Scott to leave unannounced, she thought it was good and wise that he did not create a scene or lash out. However, she reminded him that he must learn to deal with people who are tough and demanding in future work situations, as he will certainly encounter them in the future. Scott has also been dealing with a lot recently in terms of his home life, and that certainly has influenced why he occasionally lashes out. His young niece was tragically taken from him when a stray bullet hit her, and since the incident he and his family have had to pick up the pieces. His employer is aware of this incredibly difficult and heartbreaking situation, and offered a unique perspective when we spoke after the meeting concluded. She told me that the Youthworkers in her program often face a lot of personal turmoil and loss, but that a key component of their work experience is being able to fight through these emotions and cope with them in the workplace. Working while grappling with this type of loss is never easy, and I commend Scott for maintaining perfect attendance throughout the summer.
Scott’s employer told him that she will write him a letter of recommendation for any job or college application, and has also offered to reach out to her husband to help him secure employment during his gap year following graduation. These are the types of stories that restore your faith in the power of community oriented work. Scott is one of the strongest people I have worked with this summer, and he has truly made a lasting impact on his worksite. He and his story deserve to be highlighted, and watching him grow has truly been a pleasure.
 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

HANA CLEMENS - PUBLIC JUSTICE CENTER, WEEK 6

When we were at rent court on Thursday for our weekly triage, we talked to a woman who was being overcharged on her rent, and whose landlord was trying to get her to pay the money that was outstanding on her balance. After talking with her, and discovering that her landlord was a management company we saw all too often as somebody who exploits their low-income tenants, I realized how the work of the Public Justice Center tries to achieve systemic change. Much of my internship has consisted of going to rent court, and listening to people's stories about how their landlord is making it difficult to affordably and safely live in their homes. But this week, I got a sense for how PJC has bigger goals, and intentionally seeks out people who may be able to make a case that can take down a whole system that continuously exploits renters.

When this woman went to the stand to defend herself, the judge barely gave her a chance. After about a 90-second trial, the judgment was in favor of the landlord, and the judge declared that the woman legally owed the money to the landlord. The attorney with whom I work couldn't believe that the judge could just ignore the blatant overcharging that was evident on the tenant's rent ledger. After the trial, we were all shocked, but it gave me a chance to see how we could help her, and many others like her, protect themselves against a company that repeatedly sues renters for more than just rent. I am excited to see where this case will take us and how we can strive to change a broken system.

RYAN KELLNER - OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER , WEEK 6

I am consistently impressed by my office’s attorneys’ willingness to go above and beyond for clients. I have seen each of them work hard to craft re-entry plans, convince judges and prosecutors of the merits of reducing sentences, and keep in contact with each client. They have provided me a model by which I want to work as an attorney, in that I intend to be client focused no matter what position I occupy. I want to have a hand in these individuals’ plans to successfully re-enter into society, and the Office of the Public Defender has demonstrated exactly how involved an attorney can be. I enjoy my internship because I wanted to use it to parse through what my role in the criminal justice system would or should be. I wanted to see how prosecutors, judges, defenders and their support staff interact, so that I might learn where best I fit. I have learned that regardless of the role I choose, I can make a positive impact through client-focused work. That is the model I intend to promote as an attorney, that each individual deserves care and attention to make sure crime is prevented and formerly incarcerated individuals can return home successfully. In my last two weeks, I cannot imagine I will discover into which position in the criminal justice system I would fit, and do not think I want to. I would like to leave with a continuing sense of perspective, directing all of my efforts toward justice practices that are restorative.

OSIRIS MANCERA - FREESTATE LEGAL, WEEK 6

Two weeks. It’s kind of insane that we’ve made it so far and gone so long in our placements. A lot of friends I have talk about their 2-week internships, their minute internships as I like to call them. They call them impactful and meaningful, which I’m sure they are, but it’s hard to feel that same way even though I’ll be here 4 times that length. What will I get out of it? What will become of me? What will become of this organization and the relationships I’ve built here? Will I continue as a volunteer? Can I do that? These last two weeks will be interesting I’m sure. But sad as well. I feel like I’ve done some pretty cool things, learned some things about myself, and gotten a better picture of what I want in life.

But this is about my last 2 weeks. My last and final two weeks at my placement. How will I make the most of them? It’s a difficult question because it’s only 2 weeks. And I’m not really sure what will happen. I imagine it will be hectic with caseloads and writing and Photoshop like it has been. I think that we’re in a stable state now and that’s okay. After all of the long days and nights of no rest, I think we deserve this. I think it was important to be thrown into this being given more than I can handle, feeling overwhelmed at times. It was important because it taught me that I thrive in high-energy environments, that I push myself to work far more than I should- it’s thrilling. It’s important because I learned about self-care, whether or not I actually followed through. So I guess to answer my question about making the most of it in these last 2 weeks is to continue like I have been because putting too much pressure at the end is unnecessary. I’m not going to change the world, nor should I hope to. I’m here because I wanted to know more about Baltimore and its people. I’m here to help make their jobs easier, one organized filing cabinet at a time. I’m here to learn discipline and friendship and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at that.
 

GRANT WELBY - OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER, WEEK 6

This week I encountered a physical manifestation of recidivism. The beginning of the week saw my supervisor launch a concerted effort to become more organized and efficient. In doing so we were asked to help him go through all of his files, organize, catalogue, and follow up on any loose ends. This eventually led me to the discovery of seven files with white pieces of paper stapled to the front; these were files that might be eligible for sealing or expungement in the future. For those who are unaware, as I was up until about two weeks ago, sealing means that the details of a case cannot be divulged to anyone without the express order of the court. This is helpful for removing the stain of a criminal record for the purposes of a job application, or college application, but ultimately the file still exists, and can still be used against someone if they apply for a job in government, the military or law enforcement in the future. Expungement means all record of a juvenile case is completely erased. For all intents and purposes, the case never happened. The only record of it exists in the minds of the victim and respondent.

I spent the better part of Friday afternoon doing intensive research on these cases, and cross referencing with the statutory requirements for sealing and expungement. At the start of my search, 5 of the files had been marked as possible to be expunged by a previous researcher more than a year ago. But as I paged through these manila folders and looked up whether these cases were still eligible for expungement, I became less excited. Case by case, these clients had picked up adult charges, including one client who was currently serving time in BCDC. In the end, only two files remained eligible for expungement. The rest were sent back into the dusty, lonely records room, a sad parallel to the fate of the people described within, currently locked away themselves. This exercise was an illustration of recidivism, and an illustration of some of the failings of the juvenile court system. The juvenile justice system is wholly focused on rehabilitative measures, attempting to correct whatever habits or behaviors led to the delinquency of a juvenile. But these files show that this system does not always work, and in this case it worked less than half of the time. Now I am fully aware that a sample size of seven is not necessarily indicative of the larger trend, that anecdotal evidence is no substitute for real statistics and facts; but to me this exercise showed me more than numbers could.

ARTS

SOPHIE ADELMAN - 901 ARTS, WEEK 6

At the end of the workday, I sit in the guitar room upstairs while the four YWers I supervise eat dinner and vent to myself and to one another.

"Ms. Sophie, so many people are having babies."
"Do you mean people our age?"
"Yeah. They're gonna regret it though."

I thought that conversation from this past week was particularly memorable-because I don't know anyone who's had a teenage pregnancy. It's obviously pretty common. But the topic caught me so completely off guard that I wasn't in a position to really say anything but just laugh and nod. And this was coming from one of my coworkers who, at first, I firmly believed held a grudge against me--She's ended up surprising me by bringing up some pretty unexpected topics and including me in the conversation. I really appreciate that the Youth Workers come to me for advice about friendships and personal issues. When that happens, I feel as though I give pretty sound advice rooted in my own experiences.

A good majority of the time, however, I don't feel like I have very much to contribute to the conversation--I mean, I really shouldn't paying too much attention to their gossip... Yet listening to what the Youth Workers have to say has become one of the most important lessons that I've been learning this summer. I am slowly learning to step back and just listen when a response doesn't come to me naturally in situations where I think I'd want to say something. I was conflicted during a particular moment this past week. There's a lot of discussion around being light-skinned vs. dark-skinned between my coworkers. This week, M. said (referring to a friend from school) "that guy is black as midnight...if I were that dark I would be depressed." I noticed as another YWer and close friend of M. grew quiet. I didn't know how to react or if to say anything in the moment. All I said was, "that's really not ok to say, M." But to be honest, I was conflicted about responding at all. I was surrounded by the conversation but I didn't feel like it my place to say anything. That's an important issue to talk about, but in the moment, I didn't feel like I was articulate enough to say why.

If I could just learn one thing from this summer it would be acquiring a greater ability to absorb, listen and use my best judgement to know if a situation requires an outside voice.

SIMON JACKSON FORGSBERG - JUBILEE ARTS, WEEK 6

Painting in the hot sun every day has been pretty physically taxing this past week or so. To help cope, I’ve been listening to a podcast about the First World War while I work (we have an open policy on auxiliary audio while we’re painting). Harrowing tales from Verdun, the Somme, and Third Ypres – complete with their fair share of mud, blood, and lice – make working in the soupy Baltimore humidity seem all the more palatable by comparison. It smells really bad on garbage day, but at least it’s not phosgene gas.

Comparing my recent history fix to my internship is a bit of a stretch, but it’s been genuinely helpful as I strategize about heading into our third and final week of painting. Just like the war in 1915/16, the mural project has felt like it could go either way this past week; the scope of our mural is unprecedented for Jubilee Arts, and attrition has been taking its toll on our team. For the first week or so of the painting grind, our tunnel vision led us to manage our team ineffectively in some ways; we needed a change in tactics. On Wednesday, we met to come up with potential solutions – new disciplinary approaches to some insubordination we’ve been experiencing with one of the youth workers, better ways to allocate time and labor, fresh groups to keep the kids on task.

Thursday, everything seemed to click for our team, and we had our most productive day yet. Next week, we’ll be getting some fresh reinforcements from another mural team that finished their mural already. Analogous to America’s entry into the Great War, I’m confident that some fresh help can turn the tide and push our engagement to completion. That said, a larger, less cohesive team will require more oversight, and I expect to spend less time painting and more time managing others this next week. Now onward, to victory!
 

EMILY TRENDLE - WIDE ANGLE YOUTH MEDIA, WEEK 6

"Camera rolling?
"Rolling."
Audio rolling?
"Rolling."
Young voices direct the action behind me as I write this. They are one of four groups of middle school girls working to complete a video to showcase the robot they have created. The teachers are rotating this week, which is helpful to me as this internship is winding down.
I honestly did not realize how close we are to the end of the summer, and I have projects that I'm working on here that need to be done before it ends. One is a simplified social media guide that explains how to go about sharing information on sites since the current guide is a bit out of date. I still have to finish this.
I have learned so much while interning here and have been able to so much more than i had expected coming in this summer, that for the next bit I think I'm going to just focus on wrapping up what was started.