Next week students from Johns Hopkins University will scour Baltimore City as volunteers for local agencies and nonprofit organizations in an effort, school leaders say, to mend relationships with surrounding communities while affording students practical experience.

The Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships Program will pay 25 students up to $5,000 to help out in venues such as emergency shelters, health clinics and afterschool program centers.

Funded by an anonymous $1.25 million donation, the eight-week program matches students with organizations based on their interests, according to a press release.

Selected students will work 30 hours a week beginning June 6. Next summer, the internship program is expected to fund an additional 25 students.

University spokesman Dennis O’Shea calls the program a “win-win for everybody.”

“Certainly the students will get experience doing responsible work,” he said. “The university has a commitment to having a presence in the community and students are our most talented resources … As for the agencies, they are going to get talented help for very specific projects that they may not have in-house.”

The program comes at a critical time for nonprofits, many of whom are tracking the recession’s snail-like recovery. “In this economy it has been very beneficial for us to partner with universities in order to supplement our work and strengthen our programming,” said Tammy Mayer, director of community engagement for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

The citizen action organization will host a student through Johns Hopkins’ internship program. “This was another opportunity to have an intern that has a strong commitment to Baltimore involved in the organization,” she said.

Other participating agencies include the Baltimore City Health Department, Parks and People Foundation and My Sister’s Place.

Johns Hopkins officials say the internship falls in line with their two-year president’s pledge to strengthen partnerships with the Baltimore community. “Over the years, it is hard to deny that, at times, a wariness emerged between our campuses and our communities – based sometimes in fact, other times on stubborn misperception,” Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels said in a recent faculty e-mail. Initiatives like this program, he continued, “seem to be tempering that uneasiness, creating new bridges, and localizing our calling to bring knowledge to the world.”


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO