2021 Week 3: Education & Youth Advocacy


This week was the first week of Springboard, the summer program at Calvin Rodwell. I am part of the support staff responsible for classroom assistance, taking the students to breakfast and lunch, and supervising them during enrichment. Simply put, I had a fantastic week! My class is full of rising kindergarten students and they are so excited to learn even during the summer. They give me hugs when I’m not looking but I have to tell them repeatedly that because of social distancing we can’t be too close, but they seem to always forget that and hug me anyway. Three students have already said that I am their favorite teacher ever and obviously that made me tear up. Knowing that I will only have a few more weeks with them makes me a bit sad, I won’t lie, but I love that I love going into work every day.

The summer program is geared towards literacy so we read books and sound of words and letters every day. I was initially nervous about reading to them because I have dyslexia and was not sure if I would stumble over words while trying to read to them and make sure they were paying attention, but so far it has been going well.

While I work at Calvin Rodwell I am learning about how to be patient, because that it something I certainly struggle with. Patience is vital in teaching across any grade level, but even more so for kindergarteners. I notice that many of the teachers do not have patience, or they raise their voice to the students when they do not listen. I find myself doing the same from time to time, but only when we have P.E. and the space is too big for them to hear. But for the most part I try to talk to them in a calm-but-firm manner, and it seems to be working. But, of course, since they’re kids, they go back to doing to same thing you told them not to do 😀 but I know they have respect for me and are slowly internalizing the lessons I’m giving them.

Photo of Genesis Aire, smiling with a catGENESIS AIRE | DENT EDUCATION

It’s safe to say that everything has changed. Nothing is how it was, and my role at Dent, once more, has evolved drastically on a day by day basis. Until Wednesday, I had held the official role of “Fellow”, a role that gave me a lot of mobility and flexibility in terms of day to day tasks, but also a role that kept me more on the administrative end of things at Dent. I didn’t mind it. Most of the nonprofits I’ve worked in consisted of administrative tasks, it just varied in magnitude. However, due to a sudden change in staff, I was asked to step up and assume the position of Coach for the Social Innovation track. After my supervisor asked if I’d be interested, I was overwhelmed with a lot of overlapping emotions, but at the forefront was gratitude. I was grateful by how quickly I’ve been acclimated and accepted amongst the staff at Dent, as well as recognized for the work I’d done up until that point. And I’m excited to be given more responsibility, a new partner in crime (s/o to my Co-Coach), and a group of innovative and creative high school students with a special interest in equity and social issues. But I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude

Now, as a Coach at Dent, I’ve been trying to gain my footing. The staff at my organization has emphasized the importance of making our activities fun in a learning environment that doesn’t simulate school. I was aware that Coaches had flexibility with the programming, but I didn’t realize how much. My Co-Coach and I can essentially come up with any lesson plan we want, as long as we grounded them in Dent Mindsets and Design Thinking. At first I was only mildly terrified. I woke up at 3am the night before our first session with our cohort due to my nerves. Luckily, I took advantage of this time to brainstorm some fun icebreakers I’ve enjoyed in the virtual format. After coming up with a few ideas, I realized something. The weaknesses, the disadvantages I felt I had going into this experience, namely my age and lack of teaching experience, I could use to my advantage. Instead of framing the fact that I was a student as an area of inexperience, I leveraged it to relate to the Denters, as I too had been experiencing the student side of virtual school and all the things we’ve missed out in the last year and a half. I was vulnerable in sharing how difficult it’s been for me to remain engaged in school, despite the fact that I love learning, And I’ve tried to use my knowledge of pop culture and the things that I like to do (Pixar binge watching and having strong opinions on things that don’t matter) to create interactive and fun icebreakers that hopefully encouraged my Denters to speak and turn their cameras on. Seeing how easily the Denters engaged with the icebreakers, either by debating verbally or taking advantage of the chat, made my imposter syndrome fade a bit and allow me to have fun and connect with the students. I’ve also been very grateful for how much my Co-Coach values my opinion and suggestions with activities given the fact that she has a Masters in Education, years of teaching experience, and has lived in Baltimore a lot longer than I have. While my expectations for the summer have changed significantly, I’m so grateful to be partnered up with Dent and excited for the experiences to come.


This week was the first time we had children in person. It was wild since only one student in our pod had done any sort of school in person since March of 2020. We only originally had four students but through the week gained a student to eventually get up to five. Our class is quiet which has been a large difficulty since it has been hard to get engagement or reactions to the activities that we are doing in class. I have been talking a lot with my lead teacher, Mr. Daniel, about how we can restructure what we are doing to adapt to the children we are working with and to brainstorm how best to move forward.

The most difficult couple of students were friends before this week so they end up (I think inadvertently) excluding the other members of the class. I will call these students Gray and Katie. Additionally, there is only one boy, so I think he feels quite singled out and as if he can only buddy up with Mr. Daniel. Katie has said some worrying things and seems to be in a large identity crisis (completely developmentally normal but still difficult) leading them to have little enjoyment in life. Mr. Daniel and I were very concerned about Katie and ended up talking to them and then their mom. They are seeing a counselor and have the resources and familial support to get help and to get better but it seems as if they have not made the decision that they want to get better. Separately Gray seems uninterested in participating in any part of our class and seems to have started to purposely say no to everything just for the sake of saying no. It doesn’t seem as if they have any desire to be at our program which makes our job at least ten times harder.

It was very difficult to navigate and empathize with Katie’s mental health issues since I have been in a dark mental space like that before. But I did eventually come around to wanting help, and I worked so hard and I got so much better. I still have my difficulties and my lovely Lexapro, but my depression does not completely rule my life as it once did and how it seems to with Katie. It is still incredibly difficult to watch Katie not eat and not engage, but I have made myself a resource for them and am offering them things to do, and I have to accept that there is only so much I can do.

Additionally, to a difficult week at work, it has hit me this week how difficult it is to live alone. I was feeling very lonely and isolated. I feel a little better now since I talked with my parents for a long while (hi y’all I know you read these) and face timing my friends from far away.

I am just hoping for a better week starting tomorrow and to better draw conclusions from this week to better learn and move forward with the other sets of children later this summer.


In Week 3 of CIIP Code in the Schools started our highly anticipated annual CodeWorks program. While much is similar to my work last year with Code in the Schools, there is a bit that is different. For CodeWorks, Code in the Schools operates a worksite for YouthWorks (and a couple other programs) where youth get paid through YouthWorks to learn how to code in different languages with us, create cool projects, and develop as people and potential leaders (as well as maybe even take away a few financial tips). CodeWorks 2021 is different from CodeWorks 2020 because the program is six weeks instead of five. While a lot of the content being shared and instructors are the same or similar, the platform we are using is different. Instead of using Zoom across our work groups we are using Gather Town, which has a really cool interface that looks similar to Pokemon. In a Gather Town space as you gather close to people you are entered into a zoom-like call where you can see and speak to each other. Additionally, you are able to interact with items and play games. This seems to be a welcome change for the youth but at the same time, it was a nightmare administratively adjusting to the platform and getting all the youth to figure out where they needed to go for their workgroups in the morning. Aside from that, I also had a massive challenge with the new YouthWorks virtual attendance tracking website as you have to log specific times for each student and lunch breaks for each student manually in a very tedious process. Since Code in the Schools has one of the largest sites, I am helping do this for well over 120 youth, which takes an enormous amount of time. These tasks have made the week draining but have not taken the fun out of it. It was a pleasure getting to meet so many students and help them in whatever way I could in this first week and I look forward to seeing how of the rest of CodeWorks 2021 plays out. It is always a pleasure to see the youth grow throughout the summer :).


This will be the second time I write about the difficulty of virtual conversations. No matter how long we work in virtual environments, there is always going to be a barrier in communication, understanding, and working through issues. I attended a meeting with district staff about the opportunities for learning-based programs for students. One of the ideas he described was a work-based internship, where high school students intern at local businesses to get hands-on experience and exposure to the industry. This sounded like a great idea. It’s like CIIP. It allows students to engage with the community while helping develop ideas for what kind of post-graduation life they want, whether that be what to study in college, which trade school to go to, or what businesses to investigate when looking for work.

Everyone in the call was excited about the potential for the program, but the program sounded great in theory. As we began to ask to discuss, the idea quickly began to unravel. Would this be a requirement for graduation? How are students supposed to participate in an internship program while also meeting other academic and extracurricular expectations? Does this initiative run the risk of only benefiting students at high-resource schools? How can we trust that the internships provide students with skills, resources, and connections that would help them make a post-graduation plan? The conversation quickly became a cycle: questions were asked, no one had the right answer, rinse and repeat until we had pulled apart the proposal and no one exactly knew what we were left with.

I felt awkward. There were silences and rambles (one from me) as we tried to answer unexpected questions. I was in chat conversations one-on-one with two members of the group, responding to side comments with the anxiety of misinterpreting written conversations while also trying to pay attention to the meeting. I wanted to regroup the conversation and offer reassurance but unsure of my position as an intern who had never met most of the group in the meeting but also my inability to signal, with a head nod or something, to someone else to do something. Everything felt chaotic to me. Ultimately, we ran out of time, someone said we would finish discussing at the next meeting, and then the Zoom room was closed. I was kind of just in a daze staring at a blank computer screen.

I think this is exactly what the community norm “expect and accept non-closure” meant, at least in part. Logistically, we had non-closure. We did not get through everything, we were left without answers and I’m not sure if mistakes made from miscommunication or misinterpretations were resolved. But “expect and accept non-closure” also reminded me that these types of meetings can still be productive if we trust that everyone is willing to continue the conversation. Unanswered questions mean that it is something no one had thought of before. We had not thought about the potential to unequally benefit students in different schools, and now my supervisor and I have been bouncing ideas around about how to keep that caveat in mind in preparation for the next meeting.

Closure is never guaranteed. And virtually, with the inability to chat with group members after the meeting, closure is never perfect. I’ll be leading a meeting on Tuesday that I have a very detailed and packed plan for. But I have to keep in mind that it’s okay if we do not get through the whole plan if I get thrown off by questions I had not thought of, if the conversation goes off-topic or if we delve into slight chaos. Having the trust and respect in the rest of the team allows me to “expect and accept non-closure” and know that if the meeting does not end the way I planned it, the rest of the team is open and ready to continue the conversation at another time.


I’m enjoying my time at the Hampden Family Center. This was my first full week working with Catey and she is pretty nice and definitely knowledgeable. Pierre, Ashley, and Kay are great company, and I enjoy having an office space to myself (even if the computers are very slow – 4 GB of RAM is basically nothing!) This week Catey and I put the finishing touches on the logistics of the camps (scheduling, making sure it’s COVID-safe etc.), but we’re going to have to go into work on Monday, the day before the camp officially starts, to finish cleaning up the activity room. Pierre is a great boss who keeps it real with me, and kindly lets me know when I need to step up my game. He has noticed that sometimes I become lose sight of tasks that I need to perform (an issue that is becoming increasingly common in other areas of my life) but I’ve been working harder to make sure that it doesn’t happen. I’m settling into the routine nicely, and having Catey around to shoot ideas off of makes things a lot easier. I’ve created several Excel worksheets and organized them into a single workbook, and I’ve even got a regular lunch spot now – Ekiben.

On Monday, Pierre and I went to this non-profit called Leveling the Playing Field, which actually operates out of a warehouse shared between them and other non-profits in the area – I only got to see one other NPO which allowed families in need to receive donated school clothes. At the LPF section, Pierre and I were able to procure a good amount of sports equipment for the Olympic Field Day. On the ride back to the HFC, me and Pierre talked a bit about how ingenious it was for the nonprofits to pool their resources to increase their reach and effectiveness. Although the conversation wasn’t that long (about three to four minutes), it definitely had an effect on me and I thought about that for the rest of the day. I thought about how interesting it was that the HFC was so interconnected with all these NPOs (non-profit organizations). They have had workers from THREAD, utilized sports equipment from Leveling the Playing Field, and received supplies from Art with a Heart, and each of these NPOs had their own connection webs. I had never really thought about how interconnected it all was and the importance of maintaining those connections (I jokingly alluded to it in my last blog, but it’s actually crazy!).

Tying into that was the person I was in a Breakout Room with during my Bites of Baltimore on Tuesday. Siena, who got placed at the No Boundaries Coalition and the project that she was working on there – the Buyers’ Club. Basically (I explain this wrong), it allowed buyers in the local market to invest money into the market to allow them to control the products that are sold. As someone whose personal politics does not agree with the heavily privatized form of food distribution in America, it was very interesting to see there were moves towards a more democratic control of what is sold on shelves. I also found it interesting the way in which she faced the difficulties she encountered “marketing” the Buyers’ Club to people – just being honest about what it will provide: control of the market as well as an increased sense of community. I definitely look forward to reading her blogs as the weeks continue!

On Thursday, I unfortunately broke my daily routine of walking to work as it was raining quite heavily, and Catey offered me a ride, which was nice of her. Next week seems like it’s going to break up the flow a bit. The kids will arrive on July 6th, and I’ll have to go to work from 8 AM – 2 PM. I don’t know the last time I was awake at 8 AM, let alone out and about, but I’ll have to make it work.

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