Stephon Walker, Chicago 2017

Like many young people, Stephon Walker approached his senior year of high school with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. For him, graduation would be the culmination of many years of hard work and an important milestone on the road to adulthood. However, he also knew that for many of his peers, the end of high school would be the beginning of long-term disconnection from education and the workforce. Stephon refused to become another one of the country’s 5.5 million disconnected young people and committed instead to earning a brighter future for himself.

Along with 105 other high school seniors, Stephon entered the Urban Alliance High School Internship Program in the fall of 2016. Through this program, Stephon would have the opportunity to gain valuable professional work experience, earn a paycheck, and develop marketable skills. The program began with an intensive six-week training boot camp hosted by DeVry University, designed to prepare him for success in his internship. After successfully completing the training program, Stephon was paired with an internship at DeVry University.

His first day on the job, Stephon met his on-site mentor Lewis Zanon, who would provide him with daily supervision and support throughout the course of the 10- month internship. Lewis, who serves as Chicago Campus Dean at DeVry University, explained, “It is through opportunities like these, businesses and higher education institutions can successfully collaborate with organizations like Urban Alliance, to empower youth from underserved populations to foster professional growth and learn lifeskills.” Commenting on the successful relationship with the university, Urban Alliance Chicago Executive Director Jenna Ketchum explained, “DeVry’s mentors have consistently provided a nurturing environment for our interns, showing unwavering dedication to their growth and development.” She added, “The relationships they have built and the impact they have made are enduring.”

With the help of his mentor, Stephon is on track to successfully complete the High School Internship Program this summer. Through the efforts of people like Lewis and partners like DeVry University, thousands of underresourced young people will receive the training and support needed to place them on a pathway of longterm self-sufficiency. Reflecting on his progress thus far, Stephon noted, “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned while working at DeVry so far is that I don’t have to be nervous about not doing tasks correctly because people are always here to help me.”