2021 Orientation: Environment & Food Access


After a week of talking about what our internships will be like and preparing ourselves to go out to serve a good cause I had my first day of work Saturday. I decided to start early because I want my first official day to be well informed and I know I made the right decision. I went in thinking I AM PREPARED TO SERVE. I was nervous about getting there since I had never taken the subway before and had only heard negative things. Yet, no one bothered me. A man complimented my hair and gave me his number, but he was polite, nothing troublesome. I was confused trying to find the market thinking it was an outdoor event when everyone was inside, but I found my people and they were nothing but kind and friendly to me and I spent a fun 7 hours getting a chance to serve. However, during this time I realized how naïve I was. The past two years of college I took classes on inequalities, health disparities, and their causes. I thought I understood Baltimore and the ways people are changing lives. I thought with more funding and manpower everyone working to serve Baltimore would be able to lift the city up. Everyone could live a life they chose instead of being forced into. However, I feel that most of my professors been living like superman. They fly through the city stopping to fight a man who stole an old lady’s purse, but they never put their feet on the ground. You can talk about the benefits of something like universal basic income all day, but that does not remove the barriers of never learning how to save money or not having access to your own bank account where that monthly check can be easily deposited. The educated often think of methods for change and, with luck, they can be implemented, but without putting your feet on the ground all you can serve is an idea, not a person. I left thinking I HAVE A LOT TO LEARN.


Unlike some of the other seasoned peer mentors, this was my first orientation. And for most of it, I was utterly gripped by imposter syndrome. As I stared at my screen, staring at these vaguely unfamiliar faces on the screen, I was struck by the fact that there was virtually nothing separating us from them — we were (or are) students at the same school, guided by the same interests that lead us to this program. The only difference was that I had done a CIIP internship once before, and they had not. I felt distinctly unqualified to lead them in hard and engaging reflections about Baltimore, Hopkins, identity, and privilege. At the start of our first conversation, I felt myself asking: who am I to lead them on anything?

Imposter syndrome can be scary and isolating and make you insecure. In the beginning I was definitely a little scared and a little insecure. But the one thing that I wasn’t was alone. The other peer mentors supported me by sharing their own insecurities, asking their own questions, making small mistakes and showing me it was okay to be human. At the same time, they were asking their own questions, bonding with their own groups, and growing as leaders. Knowing that I wasn’t alone and that we were going through the same things set me on a path away from feeling like an imposter. With each conversation I facilitated, I felt more confident in my ability to guide my group. The main difference that I allowed myself to realize was that I, too, was supposed to be learning. These workshops, presentations, speakers, panels were for my benefit as much as they were for theirs. And together we were allowed to learn, question, and grow together. That realization alleviated much of the pressure to be perfect I was feeling, and instead allowed me to relax into the role. I found myself digging into the training we had done in the week prior, asking myself about facilitation strategies and bringing the energy I had fostered during peer mentor training. By the end of the week, I was exhausted, but exhilarated. I felt energized by the cohort that had blossomed in front of me as well as in my own new confidence. I’m so excited to officially begin the summer and continue getting to know the cohort and myself.


This past week of orientation was certainly challenging. Spending several hours on Zoom in a virtual space with nearly 50 almost-strangers was mentally demanding. However, the structure of orientation — several team-building activities packed around informative presentations/panels — allowed me to interact with students at Hopkins I otherwise would have never met. While interacting with faces on a screen in Zoom breakout rooms and GroupMe chats can be awkward and taxing, I was able to connect with people that valued community and have a lifelong commitment to service. For this, I am grateful.

Another challenge during orientation was being vulnerable with other people in the cohort. There is one activity in particular in which we were prompted to share some of the challenges we endured over the course of the pandemic with one another in a Zoom breakout room; I felt awkward and guarded at first, but finding shared struggles with someone else made me feel less isolated. I similarly overcame this same challenge when we were asked to share our ‘life design’ plans with another member in the cohort in another activity. Together, this made me realize that the culture around community organizing must be one that centers peoples’ feelings, values, and livelihoods — building a community with others necessarily means you must be vulnerable and willing to share and engage with heavy and personal issues.

I am looking forward to taking these newfound lessons to my placement this upcoming week.


What challenged me, and probably many others, the most about orientation was completing it in a virtual setting, given that the world is still going through the COVID-19 pandemic. Being on Zoom for five hours a day for five days naturally caused me to experience “zoom fatigue,” even though I found all of the workshops and activities incredibly informative, useful, and thought-provoking. Although I’m sure we all would’ve preferred to see each other in person, the virtual situation also came with many of its positives. For example, during the reflection for the Baltimore scavenger hunt, someone with a disability mentioned how having it online made it more accessible to them. We were also able to “visit” and learn about more places and avoided the gawkiness of going in large groups to neighborhoods uninvited. Looking back, I am truly in awe of how Reah, Bently, and Eli of the CIIP team were creative enough to adapt a scavenger hunt and the other activities online.

Orientation taught me so many important lessons, facts, and history that there’s just too much to list. I will note that I was surprised by how much I learned about my placement, the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, despite having not worked there yet, just through seeing their stand at our cohort’s Waverly Farmers Market trip, listening to Rodette Jones of the Filbert Street Garden speak, and learning about the other food and environmental organizations in my peer mentor group. After seeing how connected all of the community partners are, I realized that having an internship in CIIP puts me in a position to leverage the CIIP network to benefit my community partner. This is their first time hosting a CIIP intern, and I’m excited to see what I can bring to the table, given this unique and valuable position.


I remember counting down the days right before orientation week. As June 7 approached, I had various thoughts and emotions, the most prevailing being excitement for this CIIP summer experience. However, some of my other feelings included nervousness, due to the fact that this would be my first summer entirely away from home. I also was worried about making friends, starting a new job, and getting back into a routine. I say “was” because the orientation took away many of these concerns, as I felt more prepared to take on the ups and downs of this summer after each day of learning from community leaders and getting to know the cohort.

My favorite parts of orientation were the interactions I had with my peers in the breakout rooms, such as the scavenger hunt, TAG activities, and reflection sessions with my peer mentor group. Personally, I find it challenging to heavily contribute to large group discussions in a virtual setting. As a result, I appreciated getting to have several meaningful conversations with my peers in small groups and pairs. During the scavenger hunt, I realized how little I’ve explored Baltimore during my time at Hopkins so far and decided to make it a point this summer to visit (in-person!) many of the spots that we came across during activity. The TAG workshop was also very engaging and intimate as I felt pretty comfortable opening up to members of the cohort when discussing some tough topics. Finally, it was in my peer mentor group where I had some of the most meaningful experiences of the week. I enjoyed getting to know my group and learning from them as we talked about identity, our expectations for our internships, the nonprofit sector, and more. In particular, I really enjoyed our conversation about identity, during which everyone shared the ways they identify themselves as well as any identities that they may struggle to identify with. The intimate conversations we had like this were what made me feel most connected to my peers in CIIP as I learned that many of us shared similar hopes and also concerns for the summer, which brought me a sense of comfort.

Now, after completing orientation week, I feel both eager and encouraged to pursue more meaningful connections within my cohort, my internship with Joy Wellness Center, and with the Baltimore community.


I felt challenged in a positive way with the conversations we had regarding race with Gerrod and also with the TAG workshop. These are opportunities to become more comfortable in these spaces and have difficult conversations, which I imagine I will continue to have with my community partner over the summer. I mentioned this in our reflection session on Friday, but I also felt challenged re-learning the problematic and racist history of Hopkins with the rest of Baltimore. I was familiar with most of it already, but learned more in conjunction with it, such as how the steel and other similar industries segregated the areas that their employees lived and more that was unfamiliar to me before. Hopkins gets praised so much by my family members, the media with COVID, and within the University itself that it’s hard to know so many people do not know or do not care about this history, and it is always a struggle considering that I go to this institution that has and still does cause harm in various ways.

Throughout orientation, I really enjoyed the TAG workshop even though I felt challenged by it and also the scavenger hunt that we did with our peer mentor groups. The TAG workshop was so unique and I liked how we went through various scenarios and collectively made observations on what was wrong or the deeper issue. It also allowed us to have more reflective conversations regarding identities that we felt strongly about (for me, it was being a Latina woman), and then maybe the identities that we don’t think about or associate with strongly (that I am able-bodied for example) and just our privileges as being Hopkins students just in general. It was very interactive and welcoming for folks that aren’t the most comfortable with theatre or interaction in that way, like myself, so I appreciated the speakers a lot for creating that environment! While I knew some stops on the scavenger hunt, there were many places I also didn’t know or had no clue where they were in the city, so I now have many places to visit on my bucket list to learn more from. It was also a great time to bond more with our peer mentor group, we didn’t just talk about the Baltimore stops but also interests or different stories of where we had heard of or visited places.


Orientation was this week and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the rest of the cohort. I was consistently inspired by the other students and their engagement throughout the orientation. It was great to hear the excitement about their placements and their passion for community engagement. I learned a great deal from the speakers. Some key lessons that stood out to me: consensus is key in this work, listen more than you speak, show up with full intention, effort, and consistency. I also really appreciated our discussion about asset vs. deficit-based approaches to service work and the importance placed on understanding the history and systems of Baltimore. It was challenging though very crucial to hear about the negative impacts that Hopkins has had in Baltimore. Some aspects that I particularly enjoyed were the Theatre Action Group activities and hearing from CIIP alum about key lessons that they took away from their experiences. It was incredible to see the cohort become a community even over Zoom and in such a short time period. The one-on-one breakout room and icebreakers were surprisingly really effective in helping us get to know one another. I am so grateful for the people I’ve met and the friendships that were initiated this week. I also enjoyed our activity with the Life Design Lab. I think it’s crucial that I center civic engagement in my future careers so it was exciting to brainstorm ways that I could do so. Overall, I’m really excited to start working tomorrow. I am hopeful about the relationships I will build and the work that I will do during this summer for my community partner. I feel like orientation has prepared me with the right mindset going into this work and I’m looking forward to showing up this summer with intention, effort, and consistency.

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