WASHINGTON, DC – Over 160 local youth shared what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown as participants in Urban Alliance’s flagship High School Internship Program over the past year – and heard some words of wisdom from local entrepreneur Seth Goldman, Honest Tea Co-Founder and TeaEO Emeritus and Beyond Meat Executive Chair, at the program’s annual Public Speaking Challenge (PSC).
PSC is Urban Alliance’s culminating event, in which teens from underserved communities in Washington, DC and Montgomery County, MD have the opportunity to practice professional public speaking and networking skills as they wrap up 9-month professional internships with businesses across the region. This year, as students prepare to head to college, start a career, or begin vocational training, keynote speaker Seth shared valuable lessons learned from his own professional journey.
In telling the story of how he built his two global brands, Seth told students that by joining Urban Alliance, “One thing you’ve already done for your brand is you’ve shown you know how to get to work and deliver results, how to look professional, how to act professional … By being here today, you have made the decision to change the direction and the opportunities in your life.
At PSC, students not have the chance to hear local leaders, they also have the opportunity to celebrate their peers and mentors who went above and beyond throughout the program year.
Interns Carlos Herrera (Woodrow Wilson High School ’19) and Randy Sandoval (Springbrook High School ’19) were named this year’s Interns of the Year, receiving a scholarship to help fund their education.
“Randy has really done a great job working with us and with Bethesda Green in so many ways that were crucial to us this year. He helped with our pilot programs, he helped with grant applications, our B-Corp certification, and social media. He even got involved in our product design. Because of this, we’ve offered him a part-time job,” said Randy’s employers at Elysian Holdings and Bethesda Green, Tom Mills and Carey Thompson.
Said Carlos’ mentor Clara Lincoln of the Latino Student Fund (an internship sponsored by Verizon: “I am so excited to stand here today and honor Carlos’ growth and substantial contributions to our organization. He has left behind a legacy at the Latino Student Fund and has significantly impacted our capacity and ability to serve both parents and students.”
Additionally, mentors Amy Newman of Chevy Chase Trust and Sarah Drumming of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (an internship sponsored by Bank of America) were honored as this year’s Mentors of the Year.
“From day one, Amy helped me step outside my comfort zone, introducing me to staff members at Chevy Chase Trust and ensuring that I always felt like a true part of the team – not just an intern,” said Amy’s mentee Najmah Adbur-Rahman (Paint Branch High School ’19). “Whenever I needed someone this past year, Amy was always there, someone I knew I could trust and rely on to support me no matter the challenge … In all the good times as well – and there have been many of those – Amy has also been there to encourage me, cheer me on, and celebrate my success.”
Sarah’s mentee Yolonte Armstrong (Paul Laurence Dunbar High School ’19) echoed Najmah’s sentiments about his own mentor: “Sarah has become like a second mom to me who approached me with care, empathy, and a positive attitude … Her support allowed me to bring my best self to work every day … Her patient attitude has inspired me and allowed me to feel comfortable learning and making mistakes. She has changed my perspective and shown me that work is a space to share your ideas, improve, and grow.”
Finally, interns Toya Tanner of Children’s National Medical Center (Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School ’19) and Samra Girma of Bank of America (Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School ’19) were awarded $6,000 scholarships to fund their college education from the Maignan-Wilkins Family, long-time supporters of local Urban Alliance youth.
But the most memorable part of the annual Public Speaking Challenge is hearing students share the impact this program has had on their lives.
“Honestly, Urban Alliance changed my life,” said Ivan Nzende, intern at Abt Associates and 2019 Springbrook High School graduate. “The week I started work, was the same week I moved out of my parent’s house. I was filled with uncertainty and doubts, the biggest being paying for college. I had launched out on my own with no safety net … This internship was a source of support and assistance … My internship really gave me the time and support I needed throughout the college application process, and now, in two weeks, I’ll be attending the University of Miami on a full tuition scholarship.”
Closing speaker Jenny Gonzalez, intern at the Obama Foundation and 2019 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School summed up the incredible achievement of every intern in the room: “We all took a leap of faith in joining this program, and it has paid off. We’ve all learned that after we step though that first open door, anything is possible. You never know who you’ll meet or what other doors will open for you.”
Urban Alliance DC is incredibly proud of the young men and women who committed their senior year of high school to making this down payment on their future. If their hard work over the past year is any indication, this is only the first of many accomplishments yet to come.