Isabella Tasser | CIIP 2023 Blog Portfolio

Orientation Week

Going into this week, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I’d heard about this orientation was that it was an exhausting but eye-opening experience, but I wasn’t sure of the day-to-day specifics. As a self-proclaimed introvert and over-thinker, the fear of the unknown was definitely the most difficult thing for me. I created scenarios in my mind and played through every interaction that may cause me to feel uncomfortable. Above all, I was worried that I would feel unworthy of being in a program with such high-achieving, impressive people.
From the first day, I immediately felt welcomed into the program and got close to people that I had never crossed paths with during school. This made me more aware of my tendency to only interact with people I’m already comfortable with and made me think about different ways I could extend my circle next fall; that’s definitely something I want to challenge myself to do for the rest of my time here. What I found really interesting about the structure of orientation was the transition mid-week from learning about the deep-rooted tensions in Baltimore and the rocky relationship between the city and Hopkins to learning more life skills as I was able to reflect on what I’d learned the first two days and think about how I’ll try to behave as I start my internship. While I knew of the general distrust of the community towards Hopkins, I was surprised by many of the things that the university had done to deserve it’s reputation and felt inspired by the many speakers and panelists who reminded us that every interaction we have with a community member is a chance to slowly mend the fragmented relationship.
With that responsibility also comes slight feelings of guilt for going to a school that has negatively impacted so many, but I thought it was very grounding to be able to talk about this with my supervisor and hear his perspective on everything. I think there will be an ongoing internal dialogue throughout the summer as I question whether I’m doing enough, but I’m hoping I can look back to this week and just remember to always be approachable and open to any experience.

Week 1

This week was my first working for MissionFit and it was definitely more challenging than I was expecting. On my first day, I went in person to meet with my supervisor and we spent two hours going over the basic policies and beliefs of the organization as well as what my role would be for the summer. I got a few projects to start working on and overall, I think the meeting was very helpful for me to understand what was expected of me. Wes, my supervisor, did mention that he would be stepping into the director position for MissionFit so I would be working independently until the summer program started in July. Since I’m working in a hybrid model for the entirety of June, I basically get to set my own schedule as long as I get my assignments done in a timely manner. Thus, it was hard for me to figure out what my work schedule would look like and set boundaries as far as making sure I step away from my work. After two days, I had finished the assignments that had been given to me since I was mainly working on reformatting a pre-existing employee manual into two different manuals for employee and Strength Ambassador use. My new assignments, however, are more difficult since they involve me looking for small businesses to sponsor the gym’s podcast. I have no prior experience with networking or cold-emailing companies, so it’s been hard to figure out the logistics of creating a sponsorship deck and choosing which businesses to reach out to. I’ve been able to find some examples online so I modeled it after those, but this was definitely a skill that I have never had to develop before since I’ve mainly worked in an academic setting.

Week 3

Up until this week, I’d been doing most of my work virtually apart from 1-2 in-person weekly meetings I would have. I had been working on designing several sponsorship decks for the main fundraising event that MissionFit hosts in the fall and keeping the social media pages updated. Wednesday was my first time meeting most of the people I’ll be working with during the youth summer program; I met a lot of the workers at Byke Collective as well as the four Strength Ambassadors that will be going through the MissionFit program concurrently. It was interesting to learn about the dynamics of the two programs and how they would overlap in the end since I hadn’t really understood who belonged to what organization. The orientation with Byke and MissionFit lasted two days and during this time we went over a lot of information regarding gym safety and other general housekeeping items. We also played some icebreaker games that we are planning on doing with the kids when they come to the gym next Monday, which helped with learning everyone’s names and getting an idea of what the Rise Up Ride Out program would look like.
Overall, I think this past week has really helped me to better understand what my role will be at MissionFit, but it’ll be interesting to try to figure out how to conduct myself with the other Strength Ambassadors. I’m technically a member of the MissionFit staff and I’ll be acting as a mentor to the Ambassadors, but I’m also the same age as them so navigating that relationship might be a challenge for me.

Week 4

In general, I think my overall goals for the summer have stayed the same since I had gone into my placement just wanting to make myself as useful as possible in order to help build awareness of the brand of MissionFit and to aid in finetuning the day-to-day operations of the company. Up to this point, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the social media side by getting older videos posted and making the content more engaging; I’ll continue to do this throughout the remainder of my internship and start to post more current pictures/videos from the Strength Ambassador program that starts this week.
I think the main change in my goals is that I am now working to find teams and sponsors for the gROW-a-thon that serves as a fundraiser for MissionFit. This is definitely more of a long-term goal since the actual event isn’t until the end of October but is still a major project of mine. This work has definitely made me realize the amount of planning that needs to go into running a nonprofit since these organizations don’t have a normal stream of revenue and rely very heavily on government grants and community engagement. I also have become very aware of the resources that I have as a Hopkins student since I have access to a group that MissionFit usually doesn’t interact with and can use these connections for its benefit. Thus, I’ve been trying to organize a team to participate in the fundraiser that’s comprised of my track teammates and I am also able to potentially see if any of my peers in CIIP would be interested as well.

Week 5

This past week was the start of the Strength Ambassadors program, so I was participating in a lot of workshops and coaches’ lessons with the four other teens. It was interesting to hear about the different experiences and opinions that were shared during the discussion portions and I was focusing on the ways that the two coaches (one being my supervisor) navigated the conversation. Generally, we would start with a short time period that was designated to journaling about a specific topic, such as the importance of goal-setting or the qualities of a good coach. Then, we would share our answers if we felt comfortable and collaborate to come up with a collective answer. I really liked how my supervisor would loosely follow the curriculum in the handbook but allow the discussion to move in a different direction so it was a lot more engaging than if he had been reading off a page.
One thing that is more challenging than I had expected is the makeup of the group I’m working with. Both of the coaches and three out of the four Strength Ambassadors are men, so our workshops can sometimes feel dominated by one perspective. An instance from last week was during our listening workshop where we had to discuss what effective listening looks like by thinking of people in our lives who were bad listeners. The conversation quickly turned into the men taking turns complaining about their girlfriends or moms and saying things like women “only want to talk about clothes” or “love to hear their own voice”. I was pretty surprised that the coaches not only allowed the discussion to keep going but also took part in it without realizing that me and the other SA were visibly uncomfortable. The next day, I kind of called my supervisor out and explained to him how I had left the day pretty frustrated because of the way that the conversation had gone. I also suggested bringing in another adult for some of these workshops that identifies differently than the existing coaches’, and he was definitely open to hearing my input on how things could be improved for future summers.

Honestly, before this summer I would have been very hesitant to point out any shortcomings on behalf of my boss, but through this experience I’ve grown more comfortable sharing constructive criticism, especially since my supervisor doesn’t view things from the same lens as I do. I think this skill is important and will definitely be necessary in my future endeavors, so I want to keep working on being able to share my opinions without feeling self-conscious.

Week 7

This past week, I was trying to strike a balance between completing my long-term assignments and also making sure that I am participating in as many activities as possible with the Strength Ambassadors. There were definitely times when I felt that I had to step away to make time for doing my own work, but it was definitely a process of figuring out when would be an appropriate time and then communicating with my supervisor. In general, it was a pretty good week and I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on my own. I spent a day creating a lesson plan to teach the Strength Ambassadors how to craft a professional email and then planning an activity to put those skills to practice.
I was nervous beforehand because I always feel that I rely too much on my notes or forget to go over every point whenever I’m presenting since I get self-conscious when talking in front of a group. However, it helped that I knew everyone I would be teaching so I wasn’t too worried about that. The main concern for me would be keeping everyone engaged since I know topics such as this one can be boring; therefore, I created a list of tips for them to remember and also wrote a sample template on the whiteboard so they would be able to visualize what I was talking about. For the presentation portion of it, I think it went pretty well and I felt that the Strength Ambassadors were paying attention to what I was saying, which definitely helped me feel more confident as I went. The activity that we had them do after was to write an email telling our supervisor that they would be out on a certain day. They needed to have a proper subject, greeting, and signature as well as quickly communicating why they would be absent. It took a few tries for some of them to get the hang of the formatting but by the end of the workshop they were all able to draft a proper email on their own. Later, we were sharing our gratitudes for the day and they told me that they were grateful for the lesson and learning how to send a professional email, which was definitely gratifying for me since I felt that I’d actually made an impact rather than simply talking at them.