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Blanca Zelaya, Northern Virginia 2018

Blanca Zelaya was eating lunch in her high school cafeteria when she overheard an Urban Alliance (UA) staff member telling her friend about the program. Blanca was intrigued and decided to apply. She had no idea how different her future would look after completing the High School Internship Program.

Blanca was placed in the accounting department at a Hilton DoubleTree hotel in Northern Virginia where she learned to tracking daily revenue, complete quality assurance reports, and create finance reports. She developed a strong interest in the work and is now considering a career in accounting.

In addition to a new career interest, Blanca also learned how to operate in a professional workplace. She’s more self-assured in her professional communication, from interacting with co-workers to public speaking. Blanca also used to dread wearing professional clothing because she felt that she would be losing part of herself, but soon learned that she could still be herself at work. Now she feels more comfortable in her work clothes than what she used to wear. “This program has greatly increased my confidence,” Blanca said. “UA took me out of my comfort zone.”

Her coworkers and family members noticed a difference. “They have seen me mature in just a couple of months,” Blanca said. Her mentors at the hotel were so sad to let her go, in fact, that they hired her on to work part-time while she attends Northern Virginia Community College.

“If I wasn’t part of UA, I would definitely not be in the same position that I am now. I would probably work as a cashier, and would probably be indecisive about going to college,” Blanca said.

“They genuinely care about you,” she added. “They will tell you the blunt truth about everything; they will not sugarcoat it. Being guided by someone that is being honest is the best thing you can ask for. The UA staff will also go out of their way to get you opportunities to better your future, because they really look out for every single UA intern. I’m so happy and thankful to be part of such a wonderful program.”