2019 Week 6: Law/Policy/Government
With my internship ending in two weeks, I feel like there are so many things going on at the Office of Sustainability that I won’t be able to be involved in. I won’t be able to keep working at the farmers’ market, or oversee the transition to the Waverly market when the JFX one ends in December – in fact, my supervisors are already trying to find someone to replace me. They’ve also been trying to create more compost drop-off sites around the City, which I won’t be there to see. I won’t know whether the projects that the Office is funding will be successful or not. I won’t be going to any more meetings or sending any more work emails.
I won’t be here to witness the first issue of the Office of Sustainability newsletter. Some of my coworkers have been trying to start a newsletter, with which I’ve been trying to help out in whatever way I can. I have some experience writing newsletters for other organizations, but I never realized how difficult it is to distill the entirety of an organization’s work into one short email, especially in a way that’s interesting enough to make people want to read it.
From driving through the streets of Baltimore with my coworkers to eating lunch outside on the lawn in front of City Hall to sweating through my business-casual outfits on my commute, I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences this summer. I’ve learned about what it’s like to live in Baltimore outside of being a Hopkins student. Going into my senior year, I have to reckon with the fact that I’m going to be leaving Baltimore fairly soon, and just like at the Office of Sustainability, life in this city is going to go on without me. It makes me nervous – what did I contribute during my time here? Am I leaving this place better than I found it? But it’s something I’m coming to terms with.
This week, there was a shooting at Man Alive Treatment Center, a substance abuse recovery facility and methadone clinic. Two people were killed and one was seriously injured. Usually, hearing this kind of news gives me a somewhat removed sadness – these events happen in places I have never been, to a population I have never interacted with. That day, though, I was thinking a million different things. First of all, my supervisor and I were just about to leave for a meeting at another treatment center a couple blocks from Man Alive; obviously, that was canceled. Second, my supervisor’s wife worked at a methadone clinic that was also located nearby. Third, in the time I have spent at Martha’s Place, I have come to learn that Man Alive is one of the biggest methadone clinics in Baltimore. I am sure at least one Martha’s Place resident has been there before; I am sure a future resident goes there now.
The shooting made me start thinking a lot about stereotypes because in this field, there are more than we could possibly count. I imagine the large number of people reading the news from that day who are probably thinking to themselves, “now this is why giving drug addicts more drugs is a terrible idea. They’re violent and crazy and will hurt anyone to get their fix! They’re going to be addicted forever anyways so what’s the point?” I admit that subconsciously, I probably thought the same thing at some point. I mean, isn’t that the fear tactic our parents and teachers used so that by the time we were in our late teens and early twenties, we were so terrified and disgusted by Addicts™ that we would never even go near one? We imagine shifty-eyed, mean-tempered, emaciated figures sitting in dark alleyways, making bad decisions over and over again as they waste their life away. “Shame on them,” we are taught to think, “shame on them for doing this to themselves.”
I am reminded every day at work, watching the comings and goings of our women, that these Addicts™ are largely a figment of our imagination. Ms. A comes home from work at noon each day, then comes up to the office to grab mail and talk about her day. Ms. P is usually outside, drinking diet Pepsi on her front stoop or feeding the neighborhood stray cats. I usually bump into Ms. K at the subway on her way back from work at the hospital and she always yells my name at top volume. Martha’s Place is like this amazing, unbelievable sanctuary plopped down in the middle of West Baltimore, a little miracle bubble of people who went to hell and back hundreds of times, who no one would look at now and think “oh yeah, there’s one of those violent, mean drug addicts.”
Addiction is a disease and a medical issue; it is not just the people we see on the news and it is not something that must always be forever. I can’t forget about the people who don’t ever make it to this level, but I think we need more celebration and more awareness for the ones who do. There is hope, there is recovery, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and these are the beautiful things I remember when I come to work.
This was the week I learned about the importance of communication within a workplace. It’s not as if I’ve never had to communicate before, but I was met with the unique challenge of my boss not being in the office for a week. My usual reliable source of tasks and things to do was out, so I had to take it upon myself to find jobs that the office needed to get done.
I’ll admit that for the first two days, things were slower than they usually were. I went to a meeting to prepare for a tour we were giving of the under-construction Camden train station (and got the all-important job of timer), and other than that, I mostly just continued doing my usual background work without too much of a sense of urgency. However, I slowly learned throughout the week that asking people if they need help tends to yield impressive results. I went from doing my usual database stuff to having to juggle paratransit research and community association research at the same time, just by seeing what people needed help with. Deciding to communicate and try to work with others gave me a much higher workload, but it also ended up resulting in me learning important new skills (like how to geomap in google maps) and learning more about the work my colleagues are doing.
To loop this blog post back to what has been a running theme, patchworks of different experiences like the ones I had this week are helping me learn just how complex the nature of transit policy-making is. The same office can find itself calling and emailing through outdated lists of community associations in order to create a map for the public, while also digging through old consultant files and case studies to find ways to make paratransit (transit for those with difficulties accessing fixed-route transit) better. I’m glad I had the opportunity to help with both this week.
As this week came to an end, I realized just how fast the Summer is flying by. Just a little while ago we finished orientation, and now we are down to 2 weeks left in the program! I feel like I just met my YouthWorkers, and they will also be finished in just 10 short work days. So far, working with the youth has been a blast and has made my work feel much more meaningful. I love that we are learning so much from each other as we travel about the city.
This week especially, we visited a wider variety of areas as we are trying to branch out to the farthest corners of the city. I visited probably around 5 neighborhoods that I had never been to before in just four short days. We have visited so many sites (51 as of this Friday) that I can hardly remember where we’ve been from one day to the next. I love the fast pace, though, because the analysts are getting a taste of parts of the city that they aren’t as familiar with. They see organizations that they’ve never heard of and note how fun it might be to work for a certain company or volunteer for a certain organization.
On Friday, we went to ArtScape as a group which was very entertaining, but also extremely hot. We also worked on resume building, which they were all oddly excited to do. They got really into the idea of making everyday tasks and job responsibilities sound as important as possible. Next week, they want me to help them make LinkedIn profiles. I say this every week, but I am so proud of everything that they are doing, and it is crazy to think that in two short weeks it’ll all be finished.
The Parent and Community Advisory Board intersects with many other placements because the nature of the board relies upon the input of other community partners, as well as parents. City Schools, as I’ve learned over the past few weeks, has placed a large emphasis on the importance communities in the the education system. While the general understanding of education lies between the relationships between parents, students, and teachers, I’ve learned that including communities into the picture allows schools to flourish and meet the needs of its students more fully. My supervisor, Monique, and others in the office of engagement are taking the responsibility of hiring nearly 80 more Community Schools – in addition to the fifty already in existence. Each school is paired up with a community partner or lead agency, allowing the schools to provide unique services to help their students meet their full potentials. While this has made my supervisor very busy, making it more difficult to communicate with her at times, we were able to have time this past week to catch up and get more on track for my projects. I am very appreciative of her efforts, despite her busy schedule, to make sure that I am having a positive learning experience this summer. With just two weeks left, I am getting closer to fully implementing my projects before the end of the internship!Tags: Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore Office of Sustainability, BCPS, CIIP, ciip 2019, Martha's Place, Maryland Transit Administration, Youthworks