The end of summer is a bittersweet time for Urban Alliance: we face the difficult task of bidding farewell to another class of interns, but we also get to joyously celebrate their incredible work at our culminating Public Speaking Challenges. As we close the chapter on another successful program year and look forward to another marquee year for Urban Alliance, we’re taking a moment to look back at some highlights (and photos!) from a wonderful summer.
Public Speaking Challenges
This summer, UA hosted a record number of Public Speaking Challenges (PSCs) with the addition of Montgomery County, MD. Here are some of the most memorable quotes from our interns:
- Eva Mercado, a 2018 Northern VA graduate who interned at the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and started with UA as a junior in the inaugural High School Internship Preparatory Program class: “Before Urban Alliance, I worked alongside my family at night, including my mom, delivering newspaper in an old warehouse that lacked ventilation, was covered in cobwebs and caked in dust … I’ve come to realize, in the span of two years from working in an old warehouse to working in an office, Urban Alliance has now set me on the right path toward my desired future.”
- Khadijah Gikeneh, a 2018 D.C. graduate who interned at the Latin American Youth Center: “Urban Alliance has given me an amazing opportunity to jump start on a plan I have created for my future … There were times growing up where I felt like I was at rock bottom and I didn’t have much hope … My transition out from LAYC to Morgan State University is going to be an emotional one because of the bonds I’ve been able to create and how much I’ve been able to learn. I hope to one day have an impact on the lives of youth in my community and help rebuild my D.C., just like LAYC does every day. Once again, I would like to thank Urban Alliance and the Latin American Youth Center for being a part of my story.”
- Dejuan Johnson, a 2018 Montgomery County graduate who interned at the Kennedy Krieger Institute: “Before this program, I was searching for an opportunity … I didn’t have the experience needed for the opportunities I wanted to pursue, because in high school it’s difficult to develop any skills beyond filing. We want to contribute, but don’t have the professional training needed to contribute right away … Every student needs a high school internship. High school is a set structure where we’re surrounded by our peers. When you have an opportunity to work with adults – people with actual lives who are committed to deadlines and their families – it influences how you mature. I now understand how I contribute to the bigger picture. Urban Alliance allows students with potential and desire to have a real opportunity with paid internships, training and mentoring.”
- Zynthia Araiza, a 2018 Chicago graduate who interned at CIBC: “I have never had job experience before I joined UA’s program. I was introduced to the work environment when I started at UA. I can proudly say that my first job was interning at a private bank in downtown Chicago. I was able to do this because of such great training, support and encouragement that the UA staff has provided me with, even before the start of my internship. I feel that I can succeed at anything that I put my mind to due to this insightful, yet challenging experience.”
Baltimore’s Future Surveyors Internship Program Takes Off
UA Baltimore launched the pilot year of its Future Surveyors program this summer in partnership with Grads2Careers and the Maryland Society of Surveyors. The program trained ten high school seniors interested in land surveying in professional skills, then paired them with a paid internship at businesses such as Precision Measurement, Wallace Montgomery, Century Engineering, Navarro & Wright, and RK&K. One student, Kyree, has even been hired on full-time at RK&K. The program will serve its second cohort of students in summer 2019.
Chicago hosted business executives to discuss building a local talent pipeline
Urban Alliance hosted a group of Chicago business executives to address the question: “How do we build a steady and diverse pipeline of talent while also keeping young people on a path to success?” For UA, the answer is to start early – making workforce readiness training and work experience available to underserved before they have a chance to disconnect. UA CEO Eshauna Smith and featured guest speakers Andrew Plepler, UA founder and Global Head of ESG for Bank of America; Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt; and Michael Strautmanis, Chief Engagement Officer for the Obama Foundation, made the case for investing in local talent by taking on interns.
But even with corporate heavy-hitters in the room, the real star of the show was recent Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School graduate Makiah Watson, who interned at the Obama Foundation through Urban Alliance this year and whose speech was greeted with a standing ovation: “Where I come from, people do not aspire to fulfill their dreams. Instead, they allow them to drift away simply because we aren’t supposed to have a success story,” Makiah said, but after finding out that she had been accepted to Urban Alliance on her birthday, “I suddenly believed that I really could do anything in this world … I hope my story delivers the message to the business community that investing in young people like myself can help us find valuable resources, develop skills, and gain new ideas and a new outlook on life.”
UA job partners highlighted and even hired their interns
At Urban Alliance, we know that our interns are talented, but we still love to hear it from our job partners. This summer, several job partners highlighted their incredible UA interns: Chicago partner theMART spotlighted interns Luis and Calvin; D.C. partner Leadership Greater Washington spotlighted intern EJ; D.C. partner News Media Alliance spotlighted intern Imani; and Baltimore partner CannonDesign spotlighted intern Khalid. Several other job partners opted to keep their interns on staff after their internships ended, with several interns hired on in each region including in D.C.: Avaya, hired at Clark Construction Group and Joshua, hired at LearnZillion; in Baltimore: Kyree, hired at RK&K and Sean, hired at Pfister Energy; in Chicago: Brandon, hired at Levy Restaurants and Zynthia, hired at CIBC; and in Northern VA: Blanca, hired at DoubleTree by Hilton and Debby, hired at Virginia Tech.
Old and new UA staff met up for our annual retreat
When we said goodbye to all of our 2018 interns, UA staff gathered in Washington, D.C. for our annual three-day retreat. We reflected on the past program year, made exciting plans for the upcoming year, discussed how we can continue to innovate to better serve our young people, and bonded as a team. It was rejuvenating to gather together as one team united by a common goal: increasing young people’s access to economic opportunity. While at retreat, we also welcomed several new team members: Program Coordinators Richa Bhattarai, Alexis Hardy-Wills, and Alasia Washington in Northern Virginia; Program Coordinator Selena Montelongo in Chicago; Program Coordinator Dara Doss in Baltimore; and Program Director Sahaan Sozhamannan in D.C.