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Makiah Watson, Chicago 2018

Makiah Watson always loved school, from pencils and pens to textbooks and even homework. She dreamed of becoming a teacher. but felt
unprepared for a future career in education. Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, she had to fight to ensure herself a good education. It felt to her that “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,” she said. “At any moment, both metaphorically and realistically, I ran the risk of having my dreams violently taken away from me because of where I come from.”

She jumped at the chance to join Urban Alliance, and found out that she had been accepted to the program on her 17th birthday: “a pretty sweet birthday present,” she called it. “This was just the something I needed to help me break away from the stereotypical limitations that are linked to my neighborhood and even the color of my skin,” she thought.

After soaking up as much knowledge as she could during pre-work training, she found out that she would be interning at the Obama Foundation. Makiah’s experience opened her mind to new possibilities for her future. “Because of Urban Alliance, I suddenly believed that I really could do anything in this world,” she said. “This internship has been both a joy and a learning experience.”

Inspired by the work of the Foundation and Urban Alliance, Makiah decided that she not only wants to teach—she wants to empower youth
on a broader scale. Makiah is now taking the first steps on that path as a freshman at Illinois State University. “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,” Makiah said. Urban Alliance does “not just place you in a job, they invest in you as an individual. They want to make sure you know that they are there to uplift you and help you along the way.”