At the end of his Urban Alliance internship, Denardo Worthy felt “astonished.” Astonished that he had gained so many valuable skills, astonished that he had been given the opportunity to work for the U.S. Coast Guard while still in high school, and – most astonishing of all – that he had found a network of support at a time when he most needed it. Urban Alliance “gives you people to talk to about your problems or even just people to talk to about connecting and bettering your networking skills,” Denardo said. “The program is there for you, and it helps you in any way possible.”
One of the best moments of his internship came early on, when he met his mentors at the U.S. Coast Guard for the first time. They developed a close, lasting relationship, and helped Denardo navigate the professional, academic, and personal challenges of his senior year of high school. Before Urban Alliance, Denardo planned to go to vocational school to follow his mother’s dream of becoming a chef, but his mentors helped him see that to achieve his goal of opening his own restaurant, he would also need business skills. His mentors’ advice and the confidence he gained through doing well on the job convinced him that he could succeed in college and he is now enrolled at Montgomery College to study hospitality and business.
“There’s all these teens in this city who want to work and want to open up their skills and even some kids that don’t even have the chance to open up and show they are skilled,” Denardo said. Urban Alliance, he said, “helps give teenagers and young adults a purpose in life. It guides us down the path of what we actually want to do in our life.” This experience inspired Denardo’s purpose – to give back to his community. He hopes to open a restaurant in southeast Washington, D.C. and serve his community through the gift of food.
Despite dealing with hardships from housing insecurity to personal loss early in life, Denardo remained relentlessly positive while balancing his internship and his senior year of high school. He was determined to make the most of this opportunity – and he did, earning rave reviews from his mentors. Walking into the Coast Guard offices for the first time, “I felt important,” Denardo said, “I felt very important because usually people my age – to be honest people my age and my skin color – wouldn’t get a lot of opportunities like this so I felt I should take this opportunity and run with it and use it to my best advantage, because a lot of other people wish they worked at the Coast Guard even as an adult. And I’m only 17 or 18 with an internship here that’s leaving a mark, forever.”
Urban Alliance certainly left its mark on Denardo, giving him a home away from home and network of support as long as he needs it. “Urban Alliance meant another family for me,” said Denardo. “There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have [any]one to look up to,” Denardo said, but Urban Alliance “gives you a paid internship, it gives you a mentor, someone to look up to, talk to, or just someone there to be there for you … It helps me feel not alone. It helps me feel that that no matter what somebody is always watching me, rooting for me, shouting for me.”