Cheering on the 2021 Urban Alliance Interns of the Year

Today is the Urban Alliance Class of 2021’s last day of work. Instead of hugs and high fives, most of our interns will be closing out the year by clicking ‘End Call’ on Zoom and closing their laptops.

Through a year of ups and downs, our students’ virtual internships have been a bright spot – but one that comes with its own challenges. In spite of this, our students have still managed to form meaningful relationships with their mentors and colleagues and add real value to their workplaces. We’re incredibly proud of every single one of our students who persevered through a difficult year, balanced virtual work with virtual school, planned for adulthood, graduated from high school, and did it all with smiles and grace.

Some interns took it a step farther – giving all of themselves to this opportunity and winning the hearts and minds of their coworkers forever. We’re proud to celebrate our 2021 Urban Alliance Interns of the Year!

Baltimore: Oluwaseyi Samson

Oluwaseyi – known as ‘Samson’ at Urban Alliance – interned with the Baltimore City Public Schools Communications Department where he had the opportunity to edit drone footage, manage social media, write scripts, and even shoot footage (safely) at a special event. His mentors said he was an exceptional intern who could always be counted on to meet deadlines – all while uplifting those around him with an always-positive outlook. Samson never missed a UA workshop, never missed an assignment, and even checked in on UA staff to make sure they were doing okay during the pandemic. This fall, he will be attending Morgan State University majoring in Computer Science.

“My UA experience has been one-of-a-kind,” said Samson. “I am proud that I followed my intuition and agreed to be a part of such an amazing program. From attending workshops, the Leaders Like Me series, and connecting with my mentor, I am leaving with an abundance of knowledge that I will carry with me throughout my personal and professional journey.”

Chicago: Eddie Hernandez

Eddie Hernandez’s mentor at the Chicago Community Loan Fund was so impressed with him that she wrote an entire letter to Urban Alliance to nominate him for Intern of the Year. From always meeting deadlines to striving to increase productivity, paying careful attention to detail, and cheerfully accepting and applying feedback, Eddie always went the extra mile. When a member of the accounting team had to take time off, Eddie was handed their responsibilities. “Overall, Eddie has been one of the most reliable and well-rounded interns I have had the pleasure to work with,” wrote mentor Candace Gregory. Eddie was so adept that he even juggled two concurrent internships – his second being with the Chicago Jobs Council.

“I’m a step ahead of the game having already worked in the field I want to pursue before starting college,” said Eddie, who will be studying accounting at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign this fall. “Urban Alliance has also helped me improve in skills I never knew about like writing a resume … I’m also able to send a professional email like never before, go into an interview and feel confident I will do an outstanding job, and know what it means to be in a professional environment. This experience is one of many things I will cherish for the rest of my life. It makes me feel proud to say I am an Urban Alliance alumnus.”

Detroit: De’janique Jennings and Ishrat Khan

De’Janique took full advantage of her internship with Quicken Loans’ Strategy and Analytics department, which directly aligned with her post-high school plan to study accounting at Oakland University. The experience helped her to gain a new perspective on her chosen field, shadowing different teams, learning Excel, and mastering data management. Her program coordinator Azhar Aboubaker described her as “wise, professional, has a great elevator pitch, and is always ready to step out of her comfort zone.”

Ishrat was another Quicken Loans intern who made a great impression on her team. In just a few months on the job, her mentor in the IT department said that he could give her the same projects he gave his full-time employees knowing she would deliver – and do it effortlessly. When she and her family had to leave the country, Ishrat shifted to a second virtual internship at Wayne State University and wowed once again. “By the end of her second placement, BOTH of her sites wanted her back,” said program coordinator Azhar. “This is a testament to her charm and work ethic.” Ishrat will be attending the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor this fall to study engineering.

Greater DC (Montgomery County): Beamlak Bekele

Beamlak’s colleagues at M&T Bank called her ‘B’ because she was always busy as a bee. B led the development of a new quarterly newsletter going to over 700 bank employees, created complex spreadsheets, worked on projects across departments and even interviewed the bank’s top IT executive. “B has had such a pivotal role at M&T Bank and went above and beyond every expectation we had for our Urban Alliance intern,” said her mentor Julie Lockwood. “What I love most about B is her always asking amazing questions and wanting to be part of the team. It has been an honor to introduce her to my family.  She is such a joy to work with and I am hoping I have had as much of an impact on her as she has had on me.”

Beamlak will be studying computer science at the University of Maryland – Baltimore this fall. “I’m grateful I was an intern at M&T because they value community involvement as much as I do,” said Beamlak. “In this short time, I’ve learned a lot about the bank’s operations and gained experience in working with the Microsoft software. In addition, this experience has helped me to develop my communication skills. I want to express my gratitude to my vivacious and committed mentor, Julie Lockwood, who motivates me to succeed.”

Greater DC (Northern Virginia): Leslie Hernandez

Leslie and her family immigrated from El Salvador when she was 14 years old. She spoke no English and was unsure how she would succeed in this country. But succeed she has! Leslie plans to study civil engineering at George Mason University this fall, so her Urban Alliance internship at Clark Construction was a perfect fit. From tracking production to producing schedules, navigating contractor, client, and architect relationships, reviewing RFIs, and reading technical drawings and specifications, Leslie has gained experience in her chosen field before college. “Leslie consistently demonstrated her drive to learn and continuously improve her work. She established immediate trust and respect within our 35-person team by completing tasks on time and with accuracy,” said mentors Orman Kimbrough and Jeff King. “Her positive energy was infectious to those with whom she worked … We are confident in saying she’s on the path to a bright future.”

For Leslie, her UA experience was even more profound. “Before I started to write my story within the Urban Alliance Internship Program, I admit to having felt helpless, insecure, and uncertain about how an immigrant and English Learner would ever make it far in a country whose system looks down upon her. Despite the circumstances, I still had dreams… but I was stuck on how to even take the first step towards them. And it’s here when the superhero, Urban Alliance, comes to save the day,” she said. “This fantastic community that has given me the wings to fly as high as I possibly can. My internship with Clark Construction, who is building Amazon’s HQ2 here in Virginia, has allowed me to further understand myself and see a future within the construction industry. Every time I come into the office, I am able to see myself in every team member; the enthusiasm, healthy competitiveness, and sense of community they all bring to Clark makes me dream of a future like the one I’m currently living.”

Greater DC (Property Management Pathway): Javon Washington

On his Javon’s first day in the maintenance department at Horning Brothers, he was given the tedious task of removing Christmas lights that were still on trees in front of the buildings, something the team there had been putting off for months – and did it as if it was the most important task ever handed to him. Since that day, he approached every task the same way – with passion, genuine enthusiasm, and curiosity about every aspect of the work – and has gained hands-on experience with heat pumps, plumbing, appliances, drywall repair, painting, electrical repairs and much more. His mentor Hollis Phifer said: “Javon contributed to our team by challenging us and making us remember why we got into property management in the first place and why we love doing maintenance.”

For Javon, this internship is the beginning of a lifelong career in maintenance and he is already making plans to use his earnings to gain additional industry certification so he can land a great job. At just 18, he feels he is a step ahead of the game. “This is what I want to do after I graduate,” said Javon. “I feel very prepared because Urban Alliance provided me with the tools and knowledge … It gives you the real-life experience of being out on your own so it gives you an overview of what life’s going to be like and how to deal with it and gives you an advantage.”

Greater DC (Washington, DC): Jazzmen Morant

Jazzmen is attending Howard University this fall and plans to pursue a legal career to ensure that everyone has access to equitable representation in the justice system. On the surface, her marketing and hospitality internship at the American Experience Foundation doesn’t seem like the right fit, but she was able to see right away how the internship could help her develop customer service and communication skills that would help her future career. She threw herself into her work and her leadership, hard work, and efficiency deeply impressed her mentor, Lisa Waldschmitt.

“She is an enthusiastic and confident colleague, completing tasks often before their deadline and speaking up in meetings, even in a room full of seasoned professionals and executives,” said Lisa. “While we are all struggling through the challenges of working virtually, Jazzmen has taken all of it in stride. When our department assistant resigned, Jazzmen was more than ready to take on some of her administrative tasks, easing the transition for our entire team. We trusted she could take on these responsibilities, get the work done, and do a great job even though it was above and beyond her normal internship projects.”