2021 Orientation: Education & Youth Advocacy


I thought that orientation was really interesting and fun at times, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to sit for hours and listen in on the sessions and activities scheduled for the week. That was the most challenging part about orientation and wasn’t subjected to only one or two days either. Virtual orientation and programming haven’t gotten any easier despite it being the only option for more than a year now. Though I surprisingly had not trouble connecting with my peers despite the virtual distance between us all. In fact, it felt easier to get to know people through Zoom than it would have been in person. This has always been the case for me and I’m still not sure why that is the case. My favorite day of orientation was Wednesday; it was such a good day to virtually socialize with the group without it feeling forced through ice breakers. The scavenger hunt really brought the Youth CIIPers together.

Overall, orientation was such an wonderful experience in regards to my emotional well-being. I didn’t learn much about Baltimore that I didn’t already know, but to be involved with a group of inspirational and vulnerable people means so much to me. I don’t struggle with opening up and being vulnerable about my experiences… in fact, I rely on my ability to do so as personal therapy, and even as a way to help others. But to know that I have people who I can vent to and talk with about anything is heartwarming. Every day I had at least one or two private conversations in the chat or in randomized breakout rooms that were very meaningful to me. CIIP is my first community centered internship at Hopkins, and it’ll be my last since I graduate in Spring 2022. I feel very excited and equally nervous about doing the work and forming the relationship that comes with making this summer experience all that it can be.


I was delightfully surprised by orientation. That being said, I didn’t really know what to expect. I think a part of me thought we were going to learn about what it’s like to work with non profit organizations, meaning being adaptable and finding where you are the most helpful. While orientation did focus on those aspects of our internship, I was surprised by the amount of powerpoints regarding the history of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins as well as how extensive the university’s history has been with the city. As an International Studies and Sociology major, I’ve familiarized myself, at least with surface level information, about what contributed to the university’s decaying relationship with Baltimore, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how our orientation took active steps in educating our cohort. As we reflected on in small groups, as a cohort we are all aware that many Hopkins students aren’t educated on this subject, and furthermore, they don’t take proactive efforts to do so if their major doesn’t require them to. I think that pattern indicates a larger issue with the Hopkins community as a whole. While orientation equipped me with a lot of tools that I’ll use, not only this summer but in the future, seeing the fifty some faces of eager students excited to contribute to the Baltimore community, I couldn’t help but reflect on how small this population of students at Hopkins feels sometimes. I am honored to be surrounded by so many individuals that I’ve crossed paths with briefly during my time at Hopkins whether that’s through classes focusing on housing/homelessness, research courses analyzing the food deserts in Baltimore, or through initiatives conducted by the CSC, because I know that they care about their work and contributing to the Baltimore community as a whole. However, that, in it of itself, is a double edged sword of sorts. I wish I could’ve seen more unfamiliar faces, more students outside of my major that actively seek to engage in this work and Baltimore. That being said, there are plenty of participants in my cohort that are participating in CIIP this summer, despite the fact that perhaps lab or research experience might be more beneficial on their resumes in the future. I guess what I’m trying to say, and hopefully my message is coming across in this convoluted stream of consciousness, is that I think my experience in CIIP has confirmed a sentiment I’ve shared with other students in the Hopkins community, in that Hopkins needs to shift its culture to a more civically engaged and empathetic framework. I think, as now, there are a lot of students that have no idea about this side of Hopkins and if it was better advertised, or civic engagement was highlighted to the general student population better, we would see a greater diversity of students in the program.


Quickfire Summary of Orientation Week (taken from our final activity):

  • My biggest takeaway from the week was the theme of continually checking your privilege and checking what voices are represented in the room. One of the principal tenants in my life is to reflect on and leverage my privilege, but this week particularly emphasized how leveraging the privileges of race and school can benefit Baltimore.
  • My favorite activity was our scavenger hunt around Baltimore. This activity was the first time I felt connected to my peer-mentor group, and that I got excited to spend the summer with these fantastic new friends. I’ve learned so much from my peer mentor group and I very much look forward to reflecting and learning from our various experiences this summer.
  • The most challenging moment of orientation for me was the presentation on trauma-informed care. As Alyse described common symptoms of trauma survivors, I realized how many of my struggles correspond directly to those symptoms. While that was a tough realization to come to, I hope to talk with Alyse and my therapist to determine how best to move forward.
  • Throughout my internship, I hope to ground within myself how I want education and advocacy to be a long-term tenant in my life through the lessons and experiences of my placement.
  • Something important that I learned from someone else in our cohort was Aaron’s perspective of being a black man in America. Aaron grew up in the Caribbean and hadn’t ever spent significant time in the US before coming to Hopkins. He discussed how he never had a concept of race until he was dropped into the US and dropped at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. I appreciated his openness and how his perspective allowed me to imagine the racial divide in the world better.
  • Everything was unexpected in orientation since I came in with almost no expectations. But overall, I was shocked how quickly I felt a sense of community with the cohort, especially with the challenges of a virtual environment.
  • A challenge I may face in my internship is figuring out completing my work on a day-to-day basis on a hybrid schedule. Additionally, I worry about connecting with the children that I will be teaching over zoom, but I have confidence in the team of people that I will rely on to succeed.
  • After orientation, I most looked forward to writing this blog post. I was excited about using a structured writing space to sufficiently reflect on everything I learned and experienced in this long and eye-opening week.
  • Through orientation, I got to know pretty much everyone in the cohort better. Before this week, I didn’t know who was in CIIP this summer and wasn’t close with any of them. But through orientation, I feel that community building, especially in my peer-mentor group.


Orientation this week for me was a lot like a huge, but wonderful, storm; It felt heavy and fast-paced but also there were periods of calm and restoration. The blanket challenge was definitely maintaining engagement virtually but my original fear of not being able to connect or bond was quite quickly erased with the energy that the CIIP team and peer mentors set, as well as the activities that required team bonding or very deep and meaningful conversations with other members of the cohort. Our first group competition really drew my peer mentor group together, and after that I wanted all of our breakout rooms to be with my group to continue to both laugh and deepen my connections with them. The aspect I particularly enjoyed was listening and learning from the perspectives of my group members, and feeling how comfortable and safe that environment was for me to share my own thoughts and experiences that I struggle to bring to group settings.

There was a particular topic that stayed with me throughout this week of orientation. I have been concerned about my role as a Hopkins student in the Baltimore community. I met my supervisor for ACCE last week for an initial meeting and tour of the school, and she always introduced me to the faculty and staff by pointing out that I was a Hopkins student. I was a bit worried about this and thought “what might these teachers be thinking of me?”, “will they think my efforts and motivations are temporary or for personal gain?”, etc. These concerns come from my own knowledge of the impacts Hopkins has had in the community, and the presentations and conversations on Hopkins history in Baltimore throughout orientation did keep these concerns heavy on my mind. That being said, I was grateful to learn that I can overcome this challenge by leveraging the privilege I have associated with Hopkins. It was also immensely helpful to hear from peer mentors that struggled with this themselves. From conversations with Javon and Yvette, I realized that it is not abnormal for a partner/supervisor to be genuinely excited that they have a Hopkins student as an intern, especially in a youth/educational setting. I look forward to finding a balance of being comfortable at my placement with my affiliations with this institution.
As for presentations, I believe they were all meaningful and given on key topics just before I start at ACCE on monday, though the information presented on the history of Baltimore really stayed with me. I learned a TON of history that I didn’t know, and this was history that I know will be beneficial to understand as I learn about the origins of ACCE and the surrounding community dynamic changes, as well as the communities that the students themselves live in.

This week was so full of meeting and hearing from such special and dedicated people (both the cohort, CIIP team, all of the guests, etc.) and I could go on and on about specific interactions or activities, but my main takeaway was that I have noticed myself becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable. This was a goal I had for myself going into the week, as I am aware that I sometimes silence myself in serious conversations for fear of being or saying something wrong, but the cohort has been so vulnerable and helped me to become more vulnerable as well. I look forward to continuing to strengthen these relationships and my understanding of ACCE and the community programs the Y leads, as well as my understanding of the Baltimore community!


Orientation was great as it usually is with CIIP. After seeing CIIP Orientation in person once and virtually once, it was cool to see this evolution of orientation virtually. I feel like for the first week, where it was just peer mentors, we got along very well and everyone was ready to learn and pitch in. It was very gratifying being able to be there for the newer peer mentors and give advice. I feel like the whole group bonded pretty quickly as well. As for the second orientation week with all of the CIIPers it was super long but definitely fun. I absolutely loved seeing friendly faces, including Awoe, Irene, Janaya, and others. TAG was amazing as usual. I think their activity where they said something like “tell me about” really allowed people to get really deep really quick about their personal experiences and had everyone open up really fast. The virtual scavenger hunt was way better than any of us could’ve imagined. My group seemed to have a lot of fun. We got to all the stops and I felt like we enjoyed spending time together. They also said that it might have been a plus to not be in the blazing Baltimore heat while doing the scavenger hunt. In general, being with my mentee group was great. We had some really beautiful reflection sessions and the even split between black and white students in my mentee group led to some really wonderful conversations about race and the effect it may have on our placements and experiences (past, present, and future). The whole orientation, while very tiring, left me excited to start my first week back at Code in the Schools.


Virtual programming is always difficult and I can honestly say I really struggled with the virtual atmosphere of the program. But I can also say that there were many moments that surpassed my expectations and reinvigorated my excitement for the program. Connecting with students, Theater Action Group’s Workshop, and the Community Partner Meet n’ Greet revealed to me everyone’s parallel excitement to mine, but also their commitment to being open and honest about their experiences and thoughts.

Another student put it very well that one’s personality can be muted by being virtual. You either must put significant effort to ensure you can be your full self, which can be exhausting, or you cannot be your full self, which may affect how you contribute to and gain from the conversation. For me, being virtual further accentuates my struggles with “make space, take space.” I am usually okay with silence in conversations because I know people’s gears are shifting to form a thought or that people are still getting used to space. Virtual silence, however, I dislike. I fear that people are disconnecting from the conversation with their computer or stuff on their desk (because I do too) and, because I’m not totally myself in the virtual space, I feel significantly more awkward in the silence. So, I always speak when there is silence in a virtual space, even when I do not actually have something to say.

I know I struggle with “make space, take space” in both the large group and in my cohort. My cohort has gotten comfortable with each other quite quickly. I’ve recognized that part of that comfort is because by working to ensure each person has the space to speak if they would like, we have a level of trust and respect for each other. Especially after the TAG reflection, in which there were some depicted scenes that my cohort peers could relate to better than I could, I recognized that many in the cohort really do rely on that silence to adjust to the space, the specific topic, and the flow of the conversation. And because I could not totally relate to the topic, I needed that silence as well to process and understand others’ experiences. “Make space, take space” is something that I will always have to work towards, and my cohort group has shown a lot of genuine love, appreciation, and acknowledgment that has supported me and the necessary silences of the constructive conversations that I’ve enjoyed all throughout Orientation. Even when things do not go perfectly, like when we had a miscommunication on my part that we couldn’t resolve because the breakout room closed, I felt the support and respect of my cohort as we tried to resolve the issue in the group chat (which is always difficult). I was lost at how to approach the issue, but my cohort’s willingness and openness in resolving the issue reaffirmed that we can be messy and effectively resolve those messes because we have created a space of mutual trust and respect by giving space to each member of the group.


For me, the most challenging part about orientation was just staying focused on what was being presented to me. I have attention issues stemming from my childhood and this was made much worse by being isolated for the past three semesters and the focus on virtual education. There are points where I definitely had to take a break to walk around my apartment to make sure I was taking in the information.

However, orientation was pretty cool. As an (aspiring) history buff and sociology lover, I really appreciated the presentations on the Baltimore’s history, particularly the racial aspects and the city’s relationship with Johns Hopkins. As Baltimore’s largest employer, Johns Hopkins is integral to the Baltimore’s story for better or (more often) for worse. Although I had known that the Baltimore and Johns Hopkins had a strained relationship, I never really had a grasp on the depth of this divide until this orientation. Knowing this, I definitely will be more cognizant of how I engage with my CIIP Partner and the kids at the Family Center.

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