2021 Week 2: Virtual Internships

HUIYAO CHEN | BALTIMORE JOB HUNTERS SUPPORT GROUP

This week has been both productive and reflective for me. In terms of productivity, I have finished revising the around 100-page Resource Guide and returned it back to my supervisor, and I have gotten started on working on the flipbook with the document Janet sent me. The resource guide revision was such a great opportunity to explore potential resources for employment support and personal career development. It has also even more strongly inspired me to make plans for doing research on the employment situation of different subgroups and how the availability of resources has been interplaying in this issue for the groups. The “using flipbook vs. Prezi + sponsorship packet vs. organization introduction” discussion with my supervisor Janet had also inspired me with a potential research idea/question: how do different forms of information conveying method influence people’s level of information intake (subjectively in terms of willingness and objectively in terms of readiness/degree)? Specifically in this case, interactive vs. informative? I don’t know if this has been an area that has been researched yet (probably has) or how deliberately it has been studied, but I find it intriguing to learn about it as a way to understand communication, the knowledge of which may be applied to other areas like health information communication or resource/service information delivery.

Another task on making slide presentations for articles “Hiring Bias–7 Unexpected Biases in Hiring” by Career Contessa and “I Hate My Job–Now What?” by Career Contessa is another exciting chance to learn about workplace issues. I am looking forward to learning more as I work on the presentations.

*As always, loved the bite session! Especially that the one for this week is on FOOD! (And the final discussion on food desert vs. food apartheid is very thought-provoking, in the sense that they imply and may be conveying very different implications on the cause and solutions to this issue.)

CIONNE GATES | BY PEACEFUL MEANS

Usually, in the first couple of weeks, my supervisor informed me that this is the preparation stage to fully organize our main goals for the summer camp this year. Because we are still in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we are continuing the virtual experience to ensure the health and safety guidelines for the children, which unfortunately means I’m working from home. As previously stated in my other blogs, the primary tasks have been understanding the logistics of the camp and researching the peace heroes, a refreshing introduction for me, personally.

Recently, my supervisor and I have been evaluating more logistics for the peace camp since we are now competing with in-person camps. Due to this recent challenge, we may not have the numbers as initially expected. This challenge accompanied by the virtual platform has developed some anxious thoughts of how well perceived the information will be for the kids over a computer screen. Given these unprecedented obstacles, I have made conscious efforts to educate myself on interactive elements of teaching the kids by researching multiple ways to sustain a child’s attention through a computer. In addition to that, I made a roster of the parent’s emails from the previous two years, so I could reach out to them individually with the current summer application. Even when faced with different situations than expected, my supervisor and I communicate daily to work through these initiatives in the most useful ways. I am so glad and appreciative that I have a supervisor who is patient and understanding, no matter how many questions I bombard her with. Going forward, I can prepare myself to approach my staff and students in the most accommodating way, while improving their expectations.

KUSH KATARIA | JUBILEE ARTS

This week was very interesting and busy. This week was the training for the Youth in Business Program, which I will be primarily working with for my internship, starting on Monday. I was able to meet a lot of great and fantastic people who I will be working closely with as part of my role in the program. Through ice breakers, like Zoom charades, to more heavy topics, like social issues that we wish to highlight, we have gotten closer and learned a lot about the program. Starting from next week when the Youth in Business starts, a typical day will look like the following: 9am – 12 pm: Staff meeting and youth design times. Then from 1-2 is business skills classes and team building activities. Then after 2 I would work independently on marketing material or other remote projects. I am looking forward to getting settled into this routine, even though the heavy amount of Zoom might be a challenge as I get Zoom fatigued quite easily. This week of training was helpful because I was also able to develop some communication skills through activities like, working through tough situations. For example, acting out what you would do if no one in your class talked. I also learned a bit about marketing and worked with another staff member to create a comprehensive marketing plan every week and what to post on our social media.

I look forward to also gathering that marketing material and curating these post and stories. I am also responsible for doing some marketing work like creating flyers for the presentation later in the month. I look forward to learning more about this field and meaningfully contributing to Jubilee Arts.

Overall, this week was pretty good with in depth training every day. I learned a lot and met a lot of people. I look forward to the start of the Youth in Business program on Monday.

FATIMA MENDOZA | OUT FOR JUSTICE

This past week has been nice because I got to work on my first assignment, and it was great to get started. My assignment was to create a list of organizations that offer job readiness training, such as emailing, interview skills, resume preparation, and information on the people running them. When I went in, I thought that it would not be too difficult to do this. However, researching and finding the right places was more complicated than I expected. I made several phone calls to organizations to verify program & contact details, and more often than not, I was sent to voicemail. Thankfully, I got the list all finished by the deadline. This assignment was really important because I know people need this resource and that it will be used. I tripled checked all the information, and during my research, I ensured that these programs they offered were accessible to formerly incarcerated individuals. The last part is key because Out for Justice is an organization dedicated to advocating for returning citizens and policies that make reintegration easier. I am excited to keep working for this organization.

I am doing my internship remotely and from the West Coast, and so the time difference is a challenge. Navigating a virtual workspace at home is also challenging. However, it is not something I have not done before. This was my situation throughout the past year, and I managed to make it work. I have to keep a schedule of my work, break, and end times just so that there is a structure. In addition, I keep my planner next to me to keep track of my to-do list and track what I have been up to. It is these little things that have helped me adjust to the remote work environment.

MELANIE PILLACA-GUTIERREZ | OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER ZEKE COHEN

This past week I continued working in constituent services and attended a few meetings. Some of my cases this week were more complex than before and I learned about some of the current issues that are sprouting up in the area. On Thursday I had the chance to attend two interesting meetings, the first was about the movement around addressing truancy in Baltimore and the second was a monthly meeting for a neighborhood revitalization plan in southeast Baltimore. The first meeting sparked my interest in this topic because it is so pertinent to the present. While the pandemic has pushed the city to decrease the number of cases of truancy filed, the total number of cases does not reflect the challenges that come with remote learning. This situation has also shed a light on the criminalization of truancy and some organizations in Baltimore are taking this opportunity to open a dialogue about the effectiveness of current measures addressing and impacting families who fall into the definition of committing truancy. It was exciting to hear that Councilmember Cohen and these organizations are working to push for actions that create a more transparent system for truancy cases that are processed by the appropriate government agency, especially as the Baltimore school system returns to in person instruction.

The second meeting focused on updates on a housing development in O’Donnell Heights, the center of a broader neighborhood revitalization plan that includes three other neighborhoods. After some time, it was great to hear how these developments were progressing and how those behind the work are including community members in important decisions. Something that I found challenging but a good learning opportunity was entering these spaces without much knowledge about the community at first. Even though reading through the neighborhood revitalization plan and asking questions provided the context for the meeting, it was actually hearing the thoughts and concerns of the community members present that gave me insight into what mattered most for this community. The work to improve the area’s landscape and resources is reflected in how they center community spaces both on the map and in the ways they engage with each other. An exciting event that came out of this meeting was a large back-to-school resource fair that is hosted annually by the schools in the area, which will give other community members the chance to provide input on the plan and its recent developments. Overall, I enjoyed learning about these topics and how the city council representatives can elevate concerns and initiatives that center communities

SUZY SCHLOSBERG | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

One challenge that I’ve faced this week is finding the right balance between asking questions/asking for help when I need it and having a healthy amount of independence as a remote intern. I have a lot of built-in check-in times with my supervisor, twice a week with one three hour working session, and we also discuss updates frequently in our meetings with other people and partners. Still, there are a lot of times during the week where I’m expected to continue working independently on projects we’ve discussed. I definitely don’t mind this, and I think it’s important as a remote/virtual intern to be able manage my own time in completing tasks. But what I have been trying to figure out is how frequently should I be checking in outside of our scheduled times? At what point does a quick message or call or email make sense if I don’t have an urgent question/need? I think another piece of it is just managing my own time well; when I finish with an immediate task, there are a few different projects I could continue with— how do I pick and prioritize? I think communication in general is one of the greatest challenges with a virtual work environment, so trying to figure out my balance with it all is definitely an ongoing challenge. Overall, my week was good because I was able to practice some skills I haven’t before- I was introduced to this tool PolicyMap, an online platform that allows us to pull demographic and socioeconomic data easily. It took me a little bit of time to navigate the site, but once I did it was so intuitive and by looking at the numbers I learned a lot more about the neighborhoods I’m serving too. I also took on another mapping project where I was consolidating all the major resources, programs; and partners within the central baltimore area onto a google map- it was nice to get those geographic indicators in because I can much better visualize the area now. All in all, I’ve learned a lot this week!

STACEY TANG | THREAD

This week I was primarily tasked with working on curriculum development for the Thread summer school worksite, an exciting yet intimidating task. Writing curriculum was something that I was always curious about so I was enthusiastic coming into this week, but simultaneously, it was difficult to stay organized and not feel overwhelmed by all of my worries about if the curriculum was “good enough” or “engaging enough”. Luckily, my supervisor was able to get me the documents that were used for last year’s summer school so I had a framework I could reference. Additionally, two awesome Americorps members, Aaliyah and Rose, are also working with me to pull everything together and facilitate the sessions every week. I didn’t know these members before this week, but the moment we first met, we were able to instantly click and I am so grateful to have team members to tackle this huge task with me. As the week went by and we continued to work on the presentations and framework of each day, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by the virtual nature of both my work and the worksite this year. One night, I stayed up quite late with Aaliyah to pull together and arrange some final details regarding the orientation, but we were still able to get to know each other more in addition to all the planning. I got to hear about what motivated her to join Americorps, where she sees herself in the future and all the other amazing things she is doing now in addition to working at Thread. Hearing all of this on the phone at 1 in the morning was probably one of the highlights of my week, but at the same time, it was frustrating knowing that we would most likely never meet each other in person and that if it weren’t for the pandemic, we could have similar interactions in an everyday setting. Similarly, while planning out some of the activities for the students this summer, I couldn’t help but think of all the fun things that we could be doing in an in-person modality if the worksite wasn’t virtual. My supervisor reached out to community partners Rose, Aaliyah and I picked to invite them to come and speak to the students and one of the partners, Civic Works Real Food Farm, offered to bring the kids to the farm in addition to speaking to them. This seemed like a fun way to connect the whole group of students, but it is disappointing to think that we will most likely have to turn down the offer next week because the worksite is meant to be completely virtual. Additionally, getting to facilitate sessions directly with the students is an amazing opportunity, but I can’t help but worry that the presentation and content won’t be engaging enough and that logging into Zoom every day would become a chore for the students. I’m sure that the struggles I am facing are a lot more common than I think, and seeing summer programs from the perspective of a “teacher” has deepened my sense of gratitude for all the teachers and mentors in my life, especially those that I met during this Zoom era. I will try my best to enter this next week with fewer of these worries and since we will be (virtually) meeting the kids on Monday, I will finally get to see all of my plans formulate into concrete conversations and engagement.

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