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Marisa Thomas: A Summer of Service

A rising senior majoring in environmental health and engineering, Marisa Thomas shares her experience working with the Community Impact Internships Program.


Excerpted from The Hub.

Marisa Thomas, a rising senior majoring in environmental health and engineering with a minor in Spanish, applied to Community Impact Internships Program (CIIP) because she was looking for internships that related to urban farming and agriculture. Her interest in the intersection of community work and food systems led to her placement with the Whitelock Community Farm, a member farm of the Farm Alliance located in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood. Split between two lots on either side of Whitelock Street, the farm began in 2010 as a community garden—transforming vacant lot space into a haven of fresh produce. This summer, Whitelock has been selling through the community supported agriculture program and a farm stand on Saturdays, where there are also occasional cooking demonstrations from partner organizations that bring the community together and transform the produce into delicious meals.

"People really care about food access and the power and justice that comes from growing your own support can make a big difference..."

Working primarily on the farm planting, watering, and harvesting produce, Thomas got a lot of hands-on experience with agriculture while also engaging with the community. "It's therapeutic to spend so much time in nature and working with plants that will eventually end up on someone's table," Thomas says. "I've also learned that I really appreciate working with other people. I've been so fortunate to meet so many other folks in the Baltimore farming community, and it has helped me gain a better understanding of Baltimore because I didn't realize how many urban farms were operating in the city. People really care about food access and the power and justice that comes from growing your own food, and I've really gotten to see the power of the Black community especially in securing more food security. We can't do it all by ourselves so having the balance and community support can make a big difference."

Community engagement, professional development, and personal reflection are all vital aspects of the CIIP, one of the most popular internship programs available for Johns Hopkins undergraduate students. CIIP aims to give undergraduates real-world experience while being directly involved in the Baltimore City community, and while supporting local nonprofits, community groups, and government agencies in achieving their missions. CIIP enables students who have had some exposure to Baltimore communities during the academic year, and who demonstrate a prioritization of community strengths and assets, to take a deeper dive into supporting and learning from community partners doing amazing work throughout Baltimore City.