2018 Orientation: Youth and Family Wellness
Upon entering the Great Hall of Levering, I found myself questioning my decision to do a summer internship: “An entire week of training?!”, I thought to myself, “I’m not gonna make it”. It should be noted that I am not someone who enjoys orientations. Having participated in a plethora of programs through Hopkins over my three years here, I have been through multiple trainings on campus resources, my role as an employee of the university, etc., and I honestly didn’t know how many more I could take.
However, upon encountering my Peer-Mentor group, I found my mindset shifting. Everyone in my group was amicable, highly intelligent, humorous, and just generally fabulous. And while the first few presentations did not particularly pique my interest, after a wonderful lunch in which I got to know my group members better and reading over the rest of the programming for the day, I was nonetheless excited.
What I found most interesting and enlightening from the programming was the focus on social justice work in Baltimore and all of the issues associated with that. Before CIIP, I had been exposed to very little information about Baltimore’s non-profit industrial complex. I’d had a good understanding of the inequity in Baltimore, including institution racism and gender inequality, as well as the downstream effects of this like extreme poverty and health disparities. However, I was utterly unaware of the power structures in place surrounding the creation and funding of non-profit organizations in Baltimore. I was appalled while listening to one speaker’s description of some of the city’s nepotistic grant-providers, their lack of understanding surrounding the casual factors associated with the issues they want to throw money at, and worst of all, their own racist and discriminatory ideologies. I believe that this understanding, as well as the rest of the knowledge that I acquired through the programming during CIIP orientation, both humbled me and made me more capable of fulfilling my role as a Hopkins student intern at STAR TRACK.
However, this orientation did more than just prepare me for my internship. It allowed me a great deal of introspection, thus forcing me to confront my own biases and privilege. More than that, though, I believe that my fellow interns’ and guest speakers’ enthusiasm and determination to engender change within the city of Baltimore engendered within myself a stronger conviction to produce the positive impact that I wish to make in this city. And this is truly huge for me; growing up as a gay person of color, I doubted myself to no end. I never thought I would see the day when I would have enough self-love to take care for myself, let alone to the point where I would be able to try and help others like myself find their own self-love. Not only has CIIP afforded me the privilege to make this difference, but the mutual respect and camaraderie amongst my fellow interns during this orientation has left me with a greater assuredness and determination to go out and do the good work I hope to do this summer than I had ever thought possible.
Generally, I thought orientation was great! It was really wonderful to meet and get to know people who were also passionate about social justice and learn together how to become better citizens in Baltimore. I liked how diverse the orientation schedule was, from its different panels/speakers to the more interactive activities like with TAG. The scavenger hunt was especially important, because unlike everything else we were learning that week through listening, we could see for ourselves the inequality in Baltimore as we quickly moved from Upton/Druid Heights to Harbor East. I felt that the bias training is something that was important and well intentioned, but that it was pretty surface-level. I think that while in that space it’s easy to celebrate differences (or maybe not easy and extremely uncomfortable for some), the experiences I’ve had in conversations with people with various biases have rarely been that friendly. And I don’t know if I feel more prepared to deal with them.
I’ll admit–before coming back to Baltimore for the summer, I was a little confused as to why CIIP orientation would take a whole week. My friends at other internships had maybe a two-hour orientation their first days and then were off to work. What could we possibly need to cover that would take forty hours?
How naive of me. Reflecting back on orientation, I now understand that forty hours only scratches the surface of preparing us for our internships ahead. From nonprofit panels to self-care workshops to personal stories of community residents, the topics discussed this past week were thoughtfully comprehensive. I especially appreciated the speeches given by Reverend Brown, Kim Trueheart, and State Delegate Mosby, three native Baltimoreans who clearly radiate love for their city. Listening to their anecdotes about growing up in and giving back to the community was both humbling and empowering; I was impressed by the common thread of unwavering resilience that defined each of their experiences. While the other presenters from the week shared important insights as well, I thought that these three speakers stood out for the genuinely personal touch they added to their stories.
A more introspective activity that I also really enjoyed was the Theater Action Group’s workshop. Throughout that morning, I was gradually pushed outside my comfort zone as we explored the various facets of our identities. At times, I felt it challenging to share my own opinions because I was not sure if, coming from a more privileged background, it was my place to do so. Nonetheless, I appreciated the opportunity to listen to my peers as they shared the more vulnerable parts of their identities.
Orientation was overall an eye-opening and self-reflective experience that I wish all students at Hopkins could go through. After a week-long introduction to the nuances that our internship through CIIP involves, I am beyond excited to immerse myself in the city this summer through service.
I walked into orientation week without quite knowing what to expect. I was a bundle of nerves, but I walked in with an open mind for whatever the week would bring. The first speaker group to affect me was the panel on nonprofits. After walking into this internship program to aid in the functioning of a nonprofit program, I was already left questioning if walking into the nonprofit industrial complex was still the morally correct thing to do. However, the marvel lesson of the week was that we should question everything. Nothing about this week had an easy answer, but from that we learned the best lessons. The week was both physically and emotionally tiring, which is comparative to the environments we are all getting ready to devote our time to in the following weeks.
Despite the challenges, the week brought many enlightening and enjoyable moments. Wednesday provided not only an opportunity to explore Charm City, but a time to bond with my peer mentor group. I can admit I never expected to become so close with a group of people in such a short time as I did. We were really a Proud Family while we were together. The coolest part of orientation week as a whole were the speakers. It was amazing to see those making the biggest impacts in Baltimore take time out to speak to us about their experience trying to make social change. I appreciated them also telling the truth including both the rewards and challenges of their positions in the community. As we enter this next phase, we will face challenges that may be hard to overcome, but there will also be those rewarding experiences that will help us continue moving forward and keep pushing to see social change.
Going into my second year of CIIP, I thought I knew exactly what to expect from orientation. When I went through it last year, it really propelled me into reflecting on my identity, the unique experiences of others, and how I might fit into the larger social fabric of a city like Baltimore. Because I had a pretty solid idea about what the speakers and activities would be like, I didn’t expect orientation to affect me emotionally and personally in the same way again. Yet going through this week as a Peer Mentor especially, and being so immersed in CIIP mode (10 hours for the past five days!) was such a special experience beyond last year’s.
Particularly with TAG, I found myself again being challenged to think about my identity has impacted me and how the identities of others impact them. As someone who is Asian American and neither black nor white, I know that I occupy a unique space in the struggle for equity (racial, social, what-have-you) in American society. Thinking about how Asian Americans have often positioned themselves in order to align with white supremacy, I want to continue thinking harder and working harder to be a better ally to black people, and to embrace my own identity as a person of color.
I want to remember that I too have faced prejudice growing up in a mostly white town in Pennsylvania, and have been made to feel ‘other’/unsafe for my race, my gender, and my immigrant status — however, the oppression that many black people in America have faced is unique and unparalleled. In addition, while I have faced prejudice for my race, gender, and immigrant status, I also know I have privilege in those realms and other realms of my identity. I am Asian, but I am not black. I am a woman, but I am able-bodied and cisgender. I am an immigrant, but I am not undocumented and I have not been separated from my family. I receive an education from Johns Hopkins University. Acknowledging my privilege is just as important as acknowledging the parts of my identity that I have felt targeted for.
My favorite new addition to the programming was Hollaback, which presented on street harassment. I feel so lucky to have gone through that training because I know that so many women don’t know how to react when street harassment occurs. I feel so much better equipped to handle street harassment and catcalling, and to intervene in moments when I see it. While the workshop did make me emotional thinking about the times me or my female friends have felt belittled or small because of street harassment, I think it was an incredibly important conversation to have because we typically don’t have spaces to discuss those stories.
All in all, orientation has really hyped me up for another amazing summer with CIIP and I’m looking forward to learning and growing in Baltimore. I feel so grateful to lead the cohort with such an amazing and supportive group of Peer Mentors, and to have the best Peer Mentor group (The Proud Family!) that makes leading so easy and fun. The love for Baltimore that everyone in CIIP has is infectious, and I’m reminded again of why I’ve fallen so hard for this city I call home.Tags: 2018, By Peaceful Means, CIIP, CIIP 2018, FORCE, Franciscan Center, Monument Quilt, Office of the Public Defender, Orientation, STAR TRACK, Youth Empowered Society