2022 Orientation: Youth and Education

Cionne Gates | By Peaceful Means

Since my entire CIIP experience was completely virtual last summer, I initially felt unprepared as a peer mentor due to my limited experience of being around Baltimore physically, and this made me question my upcoming role as a facilitator. In the beginning, I thought to myself how am I supposed to lead if there are answers I don’t know or places I haven’t been? That’s the beauty of CIIP, it provides an insightful landscape to figure it out with like-minded individuals. Despite these mental apprehensions, this orientation encouraged me to lean into my discomfort through intensive workshops and vulnerable discussions. Given my role as a Peer Mentor, I was tasked with leading such incredible interns, most of which were exactly or close to my age, and this challenged me to enable dynamic dialogue between people of various backgrounds and perspectives. During these conversations, I was able to employ the relevant skills I gained during peer mentor orientation such as empathetic communication and active listening. Whenever I express my favorite aspects about Baltimore, it’s the cultural elements like food and the people that accurately reflect the multifaceted identities this community possesses. Uniquely, I was ecstatic to share those wonderful experiences with my peer mentor group like eating the best crab cakes at Faidley’s or visiting historical monuments around the city for the first time because we were doing it together. This summer, I wanted to challenge myself by stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new activities or seeing new things for the first time, and this orientation promotes this elaborate growth of both personal and professional development. Each day evoked this profound sense of curiosity and an astounding desire to explore the unknown. Nonetheless, these uncomfortable yet exhilarating moments is why I love CIIP, because it continuously expands my view on the world.

Photo of Hélène Girard, smiling Hélène Girard | Village Learning Place

Leaning into discomfort: Our group discussions were the most enjoyable part of orientation. It’s very cathartic to put words to feelings, and growing up in a white, center-liberal family in a racially diverse, conservative setting, it’s easy to find things to criticize or be hurt by. I have heard truly horrible things, both from people sharing their hatred and people sharing how hatred had affected them. It’s also easy to say that you have flaws. I watch a lot of YouTube video essays, quite a few of them about the intricacies of cis white allyship to civil right causes. I know the mistakes that people with my identity make when trying to help. We all have flaws, don’t we? But it’s hard to explicitly name your personal ones in front of other people, to admit to someone’s face exactly how you have failed. I am still working on that. The community agreement that we have the right to make mistakes gives me permission and grace to discover that discomfort in a “brave space,” but fully letting myself take advantage of that vulnerability will certainly take time and continual effort.

Knowing your community: One thing I am always fascinated by is the history of communities: Lane Victorson’s presentation on day 1, Jessa Wais’s presentation on day 2, the immersion into the living history of Baltimore during the scavenger hunt, and Reverend Brown’s speech on day 5. These were all integral parts of trying to understand how Baltimoreans see their home, why they would have such complex and diverse reactions to someone such as myself coming in from a hegemonic institution such as Hopkins, what generational traumas I could be stirring up if I fall into the easy traps of ignoring my privileges, what ways I could enrich my own life by taking part of the beautiful aspects of Baltimore culture.

I very much look forward to learning more about and having fun with the residents of the Charles Village as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

Photo of Helen Lacey, smiling Helen Lacey | Dent Education

Orientation helped me achieve a deeper understanding of the history and current state of Baltimore City, and I think the order of speaker events depicted how that history has informed the present day. Out of all the activities, I most enjoyed the scavenger hunt, which allowed me to see areas of the city I had never seen before. Since I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, I have been exposed to many stereotypes about the city. Although I would like to think that I have outgrown the suburban mindset of applying a deficit-based approach to understanding the city, this week of orientation challenged me to consider how growing up around those outlooks may have created lingering unconscious biases within me. I understand that throughout the summer it will be essential for me to constantly challenge those biases and shift towards an asset-based approach. The scavenger hunt allowed me to see the importance of adopting this approach: many of the neighborhoods we went to were places that had been described to me by family and classmates from the county as unlivable and dangerous, however upon visiting it is obvious that these neighborhoods are vibrant and friendly. Dent Education definitely adopts an asset-based approach by focusing on creating spaces where students can let their creative and entrepreneurial abilities thrive. Aside from what orientation has taught me about approaching Baltimore with a positive mindset, I also think that the lessons about being aware of your privileges were particularly useful for me, since I am coming into this work from a highly privileged position as a white student at Johns Hopkins. The guides on how I can use my privileges as a Hopkins student to benefit my organization were especially useful. I enjoyed learning about the different resources available to me through Hopkins, like the library and DMC, which I could use to benefit Dent.

Photo of Mahalia Munalem, smiling Mahalia Munalem | Hampden Family Center

Going into orientation this week, I knew that I would be personally challenged during the scavenger hunt because of my limited understanding of public transportation and Baltimore neighborhoods. Luckily, our discussions during the first two days about the history of Baltimore and how to get around have helped. For example, I did not realize that there were 250+ neighborhoods that comprised Baltimore City and getting to explore some of them on Wednesday made me feel more welcome to the community and less like I was intruding. I also tried to notice the distinct characteristics of each neighborhood but I found it difficult which I believe may be because the urban environment is still quite novel to me as someone who grew up in a rural town that rapidly suburbanized. Although I have to work on my ability to distinguish neighborhoods from one another, I would consider myself to be much more confident in my comprehension of Baltimore’s public transit system after orientation. I had never heard of the transit app prior to the MTA presentation and becoming acquainted with it will definitely help me travel greater distances beyond the bubble than I have in the past. Even though I was initially challenged by the Theater Action Group’s interactive workshop, I quickly began to enjoy it and really immerse myself into the experience. As someone who had no interest in theater or acting I was intimidated by TAG but together, with the rest of CIIP, they were able to create a safe and comfortable space where we could connect on a deeper level with each other and learn about our identities and oppression. During the workshop, I felt like my voice was valued by the rest of the room and a very meaningful moment happened when a fellow CIIPer told me that they resonated with something that I shared during our discussion about community and belonging. Ultimately, the TAG workshop made CIIP feel like a closer-knit community that I actually belonged in, reassuring my insecurities and sense of imposter syndrome that I had observed prior to orientation.

Photo of Sophia Park, smiling Sophia Park | Child First Authority at Calvin Rodwell Elementary/ Middle School

I came into CIIP without a strong grasp of what I wanted to make out of my CIIP experience. Yes, I did want to learn more about American education systems, and yes, I did want to help make a positive impact within the Baltimore community. I knew I wanted to learn more about education and youth development, and was excited to work with my partner, Child First Authority. However, I was extremely confused about how to get started. I really appreciated how goal-oriented this week was. My favourite activity had to be making the core value mind-maps, as I felt that it really helped me focus on what I see myself doing in the future. Furthermore, I really appreciated the “Beats by Awoe: Mapping Your Future” presentation, as it reaffirmed that I was making the right decisions for myself. Being a pre-med student, I was a bit worried this summer that this internship would not align with the typical “pre-med summer” expectations. Awoe’s presentation made me realize that it isn’t a certain career or person that I should strive to become but instead, I should strive to make a certain impact in the world. It is not a doctor, specifically, that I see myself being, but someone who can dissolve disparities in education and healthcare to make a more equitable world. Honestly, it’s probably something more broader than that, but I am still tinkering with what I feel is right. Lastly, I greatly enjoyed learning more about how to well-integrate myself into the Baltimore community. Over this past week, I have learned about being a transplant here in Baltimore, and how there are several diverse communities here that should not be generalized and grouped into one. What really stood out to me was the idea that we are not here to “save” anyone. I have always been heavily against the white saviour narrative, and I was very excited to learn more about how to make a positive impact in a respectful and helpful manner. I am overall incredibly excited to get started at my internship and am really glad we had such an informative orientation.

Photo of Abigail Quashie, smiling Abigail Quashie | St. Francis Neighborhood Center

This week of Orientation with CIIP was very eye-opening for me. The conversations that resonated with me the most surrounded perception, especially thinking about my perception of myself compared to how people in various communities view me. For me, attending Johns Hopkins University was an economic and strategic move. I had huge aspirations in high school, applied to a myriad of different colleges and universities, and in the end, chose Hopkins because it was the most affordable and most likely to help me achieve my career goals. It was not until I became a part of the Hopkins student body that I realized how much of a troubling relationship the school had with Baltimore. I was appalled and in a way, I could relate to a lot of the feelings of those being wronged because where I come from, a lot of very similar things are happening. But it was during Jessa’s presentation that I realized that because I am a part of the Hopkins student body, a lot of people in Baltimore will perceive me to be a part of that terrible legacy, and rightfully so. I’ve always been a champion for my people and so the realization that I might come off as an enemy pained me but then I realized I was centering myself when I should have been centering the people of Baltimore. Going into my internship, I am going to be actively trying to listen more and make sure that I am aware of my Hopkins privilege because even though it was not a thought for me before, I understand how it is a huge part of how people will view me this summer and throughout the rest of my life. And instead of feeling sad or shutting down, I should lean into the discomfort and do whatever I can to make sure that I contribute in an impactful way.

Photo of Ethan Wang, smiling Ethan Wang | Code in the Schools

Orientation week was such a fun and educational experience! I was not sure what to expect, entering this experience for the first time, but it was gratifying to get to know a large group of peers with similar interests.

I learned so much about the history of Baltimore, especially the man-made policies that resulted in the White L and the Black Butterfly. Coming from California, I am grateful to learn so much about Baltimore, which continues to remind me of the considerable privileges that I have and my responsibility to learn how to use these privileges in a conscientious manner to serve communities in Baltimore. Before this week, I had not truly explored the complex relationship between Johns Hopkins and Baltimore and, after this experience, am determined to learn more about.

During the scavenger hunt, I was able to navigate through the wonderful experiences Baltimore offers with the help of the transit system, exploring the colorful communities of Baltimore, eating crab cake at Faidley’s for the first time (it was awesome!), and seeing beautiful artwork showcasing innovative Baltimore icons like Billie Holiday. I am glad to have walked through so many amazing parts of Baltimore, many of which for the first time, and plan to go again. I also became closer to my peers (Cionne’s Cinnabons!) in the CIIP cohort with all the interesting activities we completed, like the YMCA-style dance in front of the YNOT lot. It was interesting to interact with such a large variety of students with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences and a common underlying theme of interest in serving the Baltimore community.

What one speaker mentioned that really resonated with me was that how transformative my CIIP experience would be was all dependent on me, meaning that everything I hoped to gain from CIIP was all up to my own perspectives, mindset, and passion. Additionally, I am thankful for one workshop in which I was able to investigate my own identities like age and Hopkins–affiliation and will do my best in always being aware of these identities when interacting with communities in Baltimore.
After meeting my enthusiastic community partner on Friday, I am excited to begin a new journey this summer!