I am Autumn Stevenson, a 16-year-old rising junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. This is the third summer that I have participated in Youthworks, a Baltimore City summer job program that helps youth from ages 14 to 21 get a five-week job experience. Working at the Open Society Institute this summer has been very different than previous years because, for the first time, I am the only intern at my placement. I am grateful because being the only intern here has allowed me to really focus.
Being at Open Society Institute for the summer has helped change my outlook on different things. OSI has so much to offer and its focus is on bettering Baltimore City. This summer, I’ve been working with three of OSI’s teams (operations, education, and communications) on projects and giving feedback from a student’s point of view. I have worked to create restorative practices lesson plans for Baltimore City schools. Restorative practices are used to create positive relationships within school communities, and to resolve conflicts. Bringing restorative practices into Baltimore City Schools is a huge part of OSI’s education work. After creating some lesson plans, I was able to share one with the staff in the office. Leading this circle helped me understand the people in the office better.
My position at this job has been very special and fun, but I also take my position seriously because it’s important to me. Working in an office comes with some challenges such as managing time and staying organized; these are both skills that I knew I had to work on before working in an office but OSI has helped me with these challenges a lot. Living in Baltimore, I witness many situations where I know that there is work that has to be done. These situations include the number of homicides that Baltimore has daily and the poverty rate in the city. Working at OSI has made me want to actually do something about making a change to Baltimore City.
This summer, I have also been able to observe a Baltimore youth program at New Shiloh Baptist Church every Friday, where the students focus on school climate. The program is run through Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health. Students do research and collect data on schools that need immediate improvement, and gather it so it can be presented to the school board. This program has also contributed to me having a better outlook on things. I’m grateful to be in a school that has a decent climate where I feel comfortable enough to actually get a good education. The program at New Shiloh Baptist Church is also special because they practice restorative circles. Practicing restorative circles helps the students understand each other, which help builds stronger relationships. Some things that we’ve discussed in the restorative circle have been about our feelings towards our city and what has shaped our identity. Listening to everyone’s different outlook and mindset about Baltimore has been my favorite part about participating in restorative circles. I am looking forward to the day when all Baltimore City Schools use restorative practices during the school day.