Urban Alliance successfully concludes first year of Fairfax County pilot program for high school juniors

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Urban Alliance’s pilot program to provide year-long job-skills training for Fairfax County juniors from underserved communities wrapped up its successful first year this week, with 90 percent of student progressing to paid internships their senior year and 85 percent showing significant growth in professional skills.

Urban Alliance is a national non-profit organization aimed at helping economically-disadvantaged students expand their idea of what is possible for them after high school through its flagship program providing high school seniors with 10-month-long paid internships, six weeks of pre-work training, and one-on-one mentoring.

During the 2016-17 school year, Urban Alliance piloted a new program with Fairfax County Public Schools to train 30 juniors from J.E.B. Stuart High School in professional soft skills. The goal is to better prepare these students for the senior-year internship program so that students start their internships with a higher level of expertise and employers get interns who can hit the ground running on day one.

At a culminating celebration Thursday, students, program staff, and external partners reflected on the achievements of the program’s first year.

Fatmah Atif, a rising senior at J.E.B. Stuart, shared her experience: “Before UA, we shared almost nothing in common other than being an 11th grader attending J.E.B. Stuart. Almost one year later, we all understand the importance of being young professionals – and we got to experience it together! I can speak for all of us by saying I’m pretty sure none of us expected to learn so much during workshops … honestly, it changed my life.”

27 out of the 30 juniors who completed the program (90 percent) are persisting to Urban Alliance’s senior-year paid internship program. 85 percent also reported significant growth in key professional skills including personal branding, teamwork, goal setting, time management, critical thinking, and conflict resolution.

Over the summer between junior and senior years, the students also received 5 weeks of STEM-related learning through Northern Virginia Community College’s STEM Summer Institute. In total, Urban Alliance’s pilot program provided students with over 120 hours of training throughout the school year and summer term.

Urban Alliance was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1996, and has since expanded to Baltimore, Chicago, and most recently, part of Northern Virginia. The program’s expansion into Fairfax County this past year was made possible by a $520,000 grant from AT&T. AT&T contributed a total of $750,000 to Urban Alliance to support expanded internship and training opportunities for an estimated 1,000 youth in Northern Virginia, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Urban Alliance was selected as one of 18 grant recipients nationwide through AT&T’s Aspire Connect to Success Competition. Recipients were selected based on their effectiveness in preparing students for college or careers with evidence-based, quantitative results.

“AT&T’s investment has helped us expand our program to a new area, and serve a new group of students,” said Alessandra Colia, Urban Alliance’s Northern Virginia Executive Director. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to spend a full year equipping and training students for success in their senior-year internships and beyond.”