May 16, 2011

Summer in the city: A big draw for students

Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships place 25 students with 25 Baltimore City organizations

The university’s Center for Social Concern unveiled a new student program last fall, not sure what reaction it would get. Here was the pitch: Spend the better part of the summer in Baltimore interning at a nonprofit community-based organization or city social service agency.

The program had 25 slots.

More than 200 students applied.

“The response certainly exceeded expectations,” said Abby Neyenhouse, the center’s assistant director for community and nonprofit internships. “It was a bit overwhelming, considering this was the first year for the program.”

Next month, the Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships program will send 25 students to 25 organizations throughout the city to conduct meaningful, hands-on work.

The students will work eight 30-hour weeks at places such as the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, the Baltimore City Health Department’s Community Risk Reduction Services, the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, Parks and People Foundation, My Sister’s Place and the Office of the Public Defender’s Juvenile Court Division.

The student in the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, for example, will be assigned to the Homeless Services Program, charged with overseeing the development and implementation of a gamut of housing services for the homeless or at-risk.

The Greater Homewood Community Corp. intern will research and create a database of vacant buildings in major retail areas, including the York Road corridor, the Charles Village business district and the Station North arts district. The intern will work with the various community business associations in these targeted areas.

For Blue Water Baltimore, a Johns Hopkins intern will assist in the maintenance and tracking of urban forestry projects throughout the watershed’s jurisdiction and provide data management and deployment of health advisories for a bacterial monitoring project on the Inner Harbor and Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

Other projects include a recycling campaign and an afternoon education and enrichment program for city youth.

Neyenhouse said that the center looked for organizations with a strong need for manpower and a sustainable project that the student could lead or assist.

“We wanted to place students where they could make a real impact and fill a pressing need,” she said.

The students start work June 6 and will receive $5,000 stipends, which for most will go to support housing costs.

The program was made possible by a $1.25 million gift from an anonymous donor. The funding allows for 50 more interns to be placed next summer and each year thereafter.

“Although the gift was accepted months ago, I am still taken by the donor’s sensitivity and willingness to support with great generosity what I see as the three needs to be addressed through the CII program,” said Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern. “The first being the need for struggling nonprofits to achieve success in their most important priority areas with the talents and abilities of Hopkins students. The second, the need for our students to learn firsthand about Baltimore’s strengths and challenges. The third, the very basic and necessary need to have the support of a stipend to cover the intern’s stay in the city.”

Tiefenwerth said that the program has the potential to be a transformational experience.

“It is my hope that whatever path the interns take post-graduation that they will carry with them a newly acquired sense of social responsibility and a deep compassion for those who have less,” he said.

The students will go through an orientation program in early June and meet for weekly reflection sessions throughout the summer. The program will host a dinner reception on July 30 to culminate the experience.

Of the more than 200 applicants, 65 students were interviewed for the available positions. The 25 selected were then matched to the projects based on background and personality.

Neyenhouse described the inaugural group of interns as a diverse bunch that includes those majoring in public health, English, engineering and other disciplines.

When asked to explain the large number of applications, Neyenhouse said that the students interviewed expressed a strong desire to get off campus and understand Baltimore in a different and more meaningful way.

“They told us that they wanted to be involved with the community more directly,” she said. “They wanted to immerse themselves in Baltimore and saw this as a perfect opportunity.”

For more information, contact Neyenhouse at