WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 100 recent graduates from D.C. public and charter schools who participated in Urban Alliance D.C.’s 2016-17 high school internship program for under-resourced youth today shared their experiences and heard from D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson at the program’s culminating event, the Public Speaking Challenge.
Urban Alliance is a national non-profit organization aimed at helping students from underserved communities expand their idea of what is possible for them after high school by partnering with corporations to provide paid internships, professional training, and mentoring. Many of the students served by Urban Alliance’s D.C. internship program this year spoke before panels of community leaders at today’s event, detailing their work experiences and the lessons they learned along the way.
Woodrow Wilson High School graduate Angelo Alfaro shared his experience interning at LearnZillion, a cloud-based digital curriculum service, through Urban Alliance: “It’s not just an internship program … Urban Alliance developed me as a person. Nine months ago, I would not have imagined doing a speech in front of you all … Because of my internship, I am going to major in Business Administration and specialize in Finance … This experience opened my eyes to a different career that I would like to pursue in the future.”
Chancellor Wilson echoed the importance of internships, saying, “It’s amazing for me whenever I have an opportunity to talk to young people who are investing in themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do, to decide to invest in yourself … We recognize that our success as a country, our success as a city, is determined by how successful we are in helping you reach your full potential, because a city is only as great as what it does for the next generation of people who come along.”
The workplace mentors who support the students one-on-one throughout their internships were also celebrated at today’s event. In the event’s most affecting moment, Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School graduate Kenneth Wells presented his mentor at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Matt Bogen, with the Mentor of the Year Award.
“Matt made feel meaningful. He instilled in me the motivation to be myself while stepping out of my comfort zone,” Wells said. “Matt doesn’t know that he was a part of something that was very meaningful to me. He witnessed one of the most important accomplishments of my life, and that was my high school graduation. When I saw him, tears slowly came down my eyes … For him to make the time to come and be a part of that, really showed me how much he cared about me, not just as an intern, but as his mentee.”
Urban Alliance was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1996, and has since expanded to Northern Virginia, Baltimore, and Chicago. To date, the organization has provided over 3,000 students with internships. This past year, Urban Alliance also piloted a successful job-skills and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) training program for 30 high school juniors in Fairfax County, VA who will continue on to internships in their senior year.
Some of Urban Alliance’s major job partners in D.C. include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Clark Construction Group, Artemis Real Estate Partners, The Coca-Cola Company and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.