2017 Week One: Education

picture of Johnathon Cook CIIPJOHNATHON COOK | HEBAC YO! BALTIMORE

When I found out my internship site was six or so blocks north of the Hopkins hospital, I was really excited about the chance to experience a neighborhood I had never been in before while arriving to and leaving from my placement each day. I got off the JHMI shuttle on the first day and began my walk only to find the space between my building and the medical campus filled with luscious green grass complete with sprinklers, a playground, and a Starbucks. I saw signs plastered around the brand new space, labeling it as “Eager Park”, a product of EBDI.

At first, I was in awe of how beautiful it looked, and I still am every time I walk past it. What does not sit well with me, though, is how barren it always appears to be. I have seen children playing on the playground maybe twice so far after a whole week of passing it at least twice a day. Not only that, the sidewalks alongside the green spaces are only occupied by myself, a security guard or two, and the occasional person briskly walking in the opposite direction of me to their job on the medical campus.

It is gorgeous, but so empty. The medical buildings and new apartments loom over the park to create a boundary between themselves and the adjacent neighborhood. The project has so much potential — the idea of a park for everyone to enjoy and the progressiveness of mixed-income housing sound like a delightful way to bring people together on paper, but right now Eager Park is serving as a no man’s land between two distinct worlds. Perhaps this is because it’s in its early stages (the park was finished last weekend), but until then, I walk with the thought of what used to be in Eager Park’s place.

picture of Sam Igo CIIPSAM IGO | LIBERTY ELEMENTARY & REC

On Tuesday, standing in the sun waiting for my bus connection, I realized I’d forgotten my water bottle on my desk at home. The heat was already getting unbearable even early in the day, so I quickly Googled places around Liberty that I could grab a Gatorade before heading in for a day of moving classroom furniture. There was a split second in my mind where I worried about being seen as an outsider stepping into one of these stores, and cowardly chose the commercialized Walgreens a block up the street from where I get off the bus instead of the local corner store directly at my stop.

The store was almost entirely empty at that hour in the morning, and I moved quickly to the refrigerators at the far end to grab a drink and back to the cashier. I also grabbed a pack of granola bars since I’d skipped breakfast that morning, and I remember being briefly surprised by the three or four aisles full of groceries there were because I had never associated a pharmacy with grocery shopping before.

Once I got to the counter, the woman was just finishing ringing up the man in front of me, and I waited–bouncing on the balls of my feet and taking my headphones out. She asked if I had a rewards card, and when I said no, without a second thought, she gestured for the guy who had just been rung up for his again so I could get the discounts. He saved me a few bucks, and she even recommended I grab another Gatorade because it was on sale, and I could get 2 for $4. Given the heat, I was especially thankful for her kindness.

On my walk to the school, just a block away as I cut through the parking lot, I chastised myself for feeling the way I had before—especially after the cashier had been so thoughtful—and made a point to try and think about bridging gaps as something that’s more accessible in the future.
This was challenged when, at the end of the day, that block of the road, and the parking lot I’d walked through that morning, had been blocked off with yellow police tape. A photographer whose black vest read “forensics” in big bold letters captured pictures around my bus stop, and Mr. Manko made a comment about how there had been a shooting there earlier in the day, so we’d need to find another route back to campus.

I sat quietly during the rest of the ride home, trying to assimilate the familiarity I’d found in the Walgreens that morning with the violence I’d seen later in the same place on the same day. I thought about the elementary students I’d joked around with earlier in the day living in a world where a corner being blocked off for a shooting isn’t abnormal, and couldn’t possibly imagine what that was like.

For every small step forward, I feel like I also take ten steps back, and I know there’s so much more to learn and it will be indescribably hard. But if this week taught me anything, I’m ready to try.

picture of Soyun Kim CIIPSOYUN KIM | CODE IN THE SCHOOLS

I knew that CIIP and my internship at Code in the Schools was going to challenge my racial identity as a Korean-American, an overrepresented minority in both higher education and the tech industry. But to sit down at my desk on my first day of work, look out the window, and see the enormous portrait mural of the old Korean man on North Avenue was almost comically direct.

I have always had difficulty labeling myself as Korean-American. While I was born in Korea, I was raised in the United States. While I currently live in Seoul, I am a US citizen. Wandering between both countries, I feel like has locked me out of both identities and cultures. But I understand my appearance dictates how I am treated. And as an Asian women from a financially comfortable background, I have experienced an enormous amount of privilege.

To speak broadly, I find that the Asian-American experience consists of striking the strange balance between the privilege experienced from not being a forced minority and the consequences of systems that are not built to benefit us. I have been significantly critical of the Korean culture and history in America; however, I am at times hesitant to criticize my own identity and heritage because I do not want to provide further ammunition to hurt a minority group without substantial political capital and representation.

This entire post was originally supposed to be about how I would contribute as an over-represented minority to Code in the Schools, a non-profit that focuses on providing computer science education to underrepresented students. This clearly turned into more of an existential rambling, but I think it is clear the research and unpacking of information I will look forward to this summer!

picture of Angad Uppal CIIPANGAD UPPAL | THREAD

This week I stepped into a brand new environment. I arrived to some of the friendliest smiles I had ever received in my life. The people and the environment at Thread are all that one could ask for, it seems almost like someone dreamed it and then put it at Touchpoint. The first day was spent mostly getting oriented with the organization, understanding what exactly we would be doing this summer and figuring out the best ways to communicate with one another. We also got to know the world’s greatest boss, Neekta Khorsand. Neekta wears about 30 different hats for Thread and is constantly running around, planning, and keeping herself busy. Through all of that, she still managed to keep myself and Tena, the other CIIP intern in the loop and updated so that we were up to speed and knew exactly what is going on this summer. She also gave us tasks that catered towards our skillset, while still also finding ways to challenge us. This week Tena and I had to help Neekta run an orientation for all of the different employers that Thread students will be working at, which took up the majority of our first 3 days.

This summer, Tena and I will be managing 180 students who are a part of Thread who will have summer jobs throughout Baltimore City as part of the YouthWorks summer initiative. YouthWorks takes Baltimore City high school students and places them at various summer job locations throughout the city. In addition, Thread is a worksite and is responsible for placing 10 students in different labs at the JHMI through the DAASI program. This week we spent a lot of time planning for the first week of YouthWorks, 6/26-6/30 and especially the first two days because if students do not show up to work on either of the first two days, then they are fired. Another variable with which we are operating is summer school. Summer school registration begins on the first day of YouthWorks, 6/26, and there are several students participating both in Summer School and YouthWorks.

This summer is going to be a lot of outreach to both employers and students. One challenge that I see coming my way is having to relate to both students and employers and make sure that Thread’s reputation remains positive throughout the city. From what I have seen so far, Thread is a wonderful organization and I am excited for all of the hard work and challenges that will be coming my way this summer!

picture of Eileen Yu CIIPEILEEN YU | MERIT

It’s only been a few days, but I feel like I’ve already had the opportunity to experience so many facets of working in nonprofit! I can confidently say that here at MERIT, no two days look the same on the job. Before the summer, MERIT had four staff members and I was surprised to learn that only one of them, my supervisor, worked directly with the students. There is such an incredible amount of work that needs to be done.

This past week, we have been gearing up for orientation next week. As we are preparing, I find myself continually surprised by the resources these kids have access to through the summer program. I certainly did not have some of these opportunities, even having come from a privileged background and high school. Yesterday, I met one of my students. She told me about her health disparities project last year in MERIT. As she continued sharing her thoughts, on both her project and future vocational ambitions, all of the things that I had read about on the MERIT website and my talks with my supervisor about the program’s goals became more real. She told me she was learning how to research various topics, how surprised she was about her results, and how she had grown so much more confident in her speaking/research abilities over the last year. I’m so excited to meet and hear from the others! Looking forward to the next seven weeks!!

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