When Jayson Hayes steps onto the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) campus this fall, he will have earned an exclusive bragging right on his resume: “Interned with Lakeside Alliance, Builder of the Obama Presidential Center.”
His OPC experience was made possible through a partnership between Lakeside Alliance and the nonprofit Urban Alliance, which exposes rising youth to careers, as well as professional and personal development. And it won’t be the only standout feature bolstering the future of this aspiring engineer: Jayson graduated salutatorian of his senior class at Urban Prep Academy Bronzeville in June.
Beyond his initial interest in engineering, Jayson says taking the position with Urban Alliance was a no-brainer once his academic advisor explained it was a paid opportunity. He started with Lakeside Alliance in November with a rotation in civil engineering, mentored by Jimi Akintonde, engineer with Lakeside Alliance and son of Jimmy Akintonde, president and CEO of UJAMAA Construction, where he looked at blueprints and project schedules. In February, Jayson switched his focus to diversity, equity and inclusion, mentored by Lakeside Alliance procurement agent Chris Harris.
Each day, Jayson began with assignments that frequently involved working with Excel spreadsheets and other Microsoft software.
“Working with Microsoft forms to create a survey for the food truck vendors was something I really enjoyed,” Jayson said. “I got to ask more about their companies and certain questions about their certifications.”
Mentor Chris Harris would occasionally invite Jayson to listen in on meetings with contractors. Later, he tasked him with telephone outreach to subcontractors looking to submit proposals on bid packages. Jayson said this exercise helped him improve his speech.
“For me, it was about my communication skills … pronunciation of words. I’m working on that,” Jayson said.
Along with being mindful of Jayson’s desire to pursue a career in engineering, Harris said he had Jayson “get to know himself.” He asked Jayson to take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test to learn more about his study habits and how he feels about being alone versus being around people. Before his time ended, Harris had Jayson create a PowerPoint presentation with a snapshot of who he is today that he can look back on to see how much he’s grown.
“I tried to include elements that will be transferable to his experiences in the future,” Harris said.
Before the paid internship wrapped, Jayson worked with the Urban Alliance team to develop a post-high school plan, draft a resume, create a LinkedIn profile, and have open-ended conversations about what college might be like. Professional development is a critical component of the paid internship experience, and students can follow up with the organization afterward if they have questions.
For Jayson, one of his fondest memories at the OPC was helping to build picnic lunch benches for workers at the site. But a key takeaway for him was time spent on self-development.
“This was a glorious opportunity, and I want to keep building on my networking,” he said.