When I was in high school, I began volunteering at Joy Ride, a therapeutic horsemanship center for children and adults with disabilities. Once a week throughout the school year, I helped with students’ riding lessons by keeping them balanced on their horses. During the summer before my first year at Hopkins, however, I had a lot more free time, so I got involved in their PREP program.  

Petting the horses after we fed them watermelon
Indoor riding lessons happen when the weather is bad
One of the horses getting prepped for his lesson

The PREP program taught life, academic, and vocational skills to adults with disabilities. Since classes were almost every day of the week, I quickly got used to the daily routine. In the morning, we groomed and walked the horses. Then, we played a game or read before lunch. After we ate, we’d do chores like sweeping, watering plants, laundry, and taking out the trash. The most fun always came after the work was done. This was when we’d do an art project and cook a snack; it was definitely everyone’s favorite part of the day.  

Another chore was feeding the fish
One of my favorite art projects
Mini pizzas we made for snack

As the weeks went on, I got to know everyone in class pretty well. Terry had a love for music and always brought the best lunches. Max’s favorite thing to order at Mexican restaurants was steak tacos. Max and Tyler (who liked to go by “Big T”) were best friends who always watched wrestling during lunch. And Ross had recently become an uncle. Everyone had such unique personalities that each day brought new surprises and lots of laughter.  

With the end of summer growing closer every day, I was excited to start school but bummed to be leaving Joy Ride. I wanted to find something like Joy Ride at Hopkins, but I didn’t know where to look or if it was possible.  

The card I was given before I left for Hopkins

In the fall of my second year, I attended the semesterly Student Involvement Fair (SIF). This was where I discovered the club basketball team a year prior, so I figured I could find another organization that fit one of my interests. I was shocked at the number of clubs Hopkins had to offer; there seemed to be something for everyone. This was when I stumbled upon Believe in Art.  

Believe in Art (BIA) partners with different programs in the Baltimore community to offer art therapy. One of the programs BIA partners with is Karina Cafe, a nonprofit that works with disabled individuals. I couldn’t believe I had found something similar to Joy Ride. I immediately applied and began volunteering.  

Every Friday, individuals from Karina Cafe come to campus, and we do an art project with them. It’s a relaxing end to my week that I’m always looking forward to. Since we see everyone consistently, I’ve gotten to know the people we’re working with better. They talk about their families, hobbies, pets, and what they’re doing over the weekend. They like to color, draw, and paint. Each week, we do a new craft they always get excited about.  

No two crafts are alike

My favorite crafts are the ones we do before holidays because everyone seems to appreciate them the most. For Easter, we drew handprint bunnies, and for Valentine’s Day, we made smiley hearts and woven paper hearts. It’s also fun to hear about the different ways people celebrate. As we complete the art projects, I enjoy seeing the unique touch that everyone adds to their work. Whether it’s a funky color or a crazy name, no two pieces of artwork look the same.  

Christmas craft
Halloween craft
Valentine’s Day craft

I’m so glad I found BIA because it’s allowed me to continue doing something I enjoy and has helped me feel at home while I’m at Hopkins. If there’s anything I’ve realized from discovering BIA, it’s that there’s something for everyone at Hopkins.  

Drawing I was given from a Karina Cafe student