It’s Spring Break for D.C. Schools, But Some Seniors Won’t Be on Vacation

 A Taste of Full Time Work for Many Interns

Washington, DC, March 30, 2012

 Over 150 high school seniors in the District will be spending their spring break working at some of the country’s most prestigious organizations thanks to an innovative internship program run by the Urban Alliance. The program, which has enjoyed unprecedented success, combines training, mentoring, and career planning with unique, year-long paid internship opportunities at participating organizations that include Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Marriot, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. As part of a commitment they made last year, students have been working at their internships for 12 hours a week since the beginning of the school year, and will commit 32 hours to their employers over spring break. “Under-resourced youth in distressed DC neighborhoods face bleak prospects after completing high-school,” said Veronica Nolan, Executive Director of the Urban Alliance. “The program gives motivated students the training and work experiences they need to help them achieve educational and career success.”

With the unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds at over 18 percent with significantly higher rates for black and Hispanic youth, communities have struggled to find solutions to this pressing social problem. Since the inception of the Urban Alliance Internship Program in 1996, over 1,400 seniors from schools in low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore and DC have completed the program. These students have nearly a 100 percent high-school graduation rate, and close to 90 percent have gone on to attend college. “This experience opened my eyes to the diversity of the world. So many cultures and languages work here. This understanding is something I will carry with me,” commented Paula Thomas, a senior at McKinley Tech and Intern in the World Bank’s Office of Sustainable Development.

The success of the program derives from how the program recruits students and matches them to a jobsite that best meets their future career interests; the high level of support provided by both the Urban Alliance and the company’s jobsite mentor; and, of course, the pay. Interns make $6,500 for their work throughout the year.

“A large part of our success is the result of the involvement and hard work of our corporate colleagues,” said Meaghan Woodbury, Director of Corporate Partnerships. “They not only open their workplaces to our students and pay them, but also provide hundreds of hours of volunteer time to act as Mentors.” Each corporate sponsor pays the Urban Alliance a $10,500 tax-deductible donation that covers the intern’s pay, employment workshops, and administrative costs. Currently, over 100 companies serve as corporate partners in the District. “It’s a classic win-win, noted Tony Randall, State Government Affairs Director at Verizon. “Our youth Interns provide a valuable contribution to the company while learning how to navigate a real-world work environment.”

The Urban Alliance is a DC-based non-profit organization focused on supporting the college and career aspirations of youth through a connection to the workforce. Through its work in three regions, the Urban Alliance provides youth in distressed areas access to professional growth experiences through paid internships, formal training, and mentorship that help them prepare for a life of work and self-sufficiency.