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Northern VA teens graduate from Urban Alliance’s High School Internship Program

Local high-school graduates shared their transformative internship experiences

Yesterday 60 recent high school graduates from Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, and Fairfax County shared what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown as participants in Urban Alliance’s High School Internship Program (HSIP) for underserved youth.

HSIP, Urban Alliance’s flagship program, is an intensive early work experience for economically-disadvantaged high school seniors that includes a 9-month, paid, professional internship; weeks of pre-work professional development training; weekly job and life skills workshops; post-high school planning; mentoring from two caring adults; and ongoing post-high school college and career support. The program culminated in Wednesday’s Public Speaking Challenge, where interns sharpened their public speaking skills through presentations about their internships in front of panels of community leaders.

Chelsie Ross, a 2019 graduate of H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, was awarded the 2019 Intern of the Year scholarship for her exceptional performance throughout the year. In nominating Chelsie for the award, the team Chelsie interned with at Evolent Health said: “From taking on the complex projects our team has put on her plate throughout her time at Evolent to working through the tough decisions and effort that comes with finding a way to fund her future in college, Chelsie has never backed down to the many challenges and obstacles placed in front of her. She has blown us away with her determination, eagerness, and poise since day one. If we were able to hire her on full-time, we would do so in a heartbeat after having witnessed her contributions and incredible effort. But alas we must let her continue her journey on to college where we know she will do nothing less than strive towards her best and turn her passion for making a difference into impact.”

Ross plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall where she hopes to pursue an interest in environmental science.

In addition, five students were awarded Core Values Awards celebrating their exemplary work during the year:

  • Ronald Padilla-Hernandez (Justice High School ’19) interned at Northern Virginia Community College’s Technology Innovation in Teaching and Learning department
  • Heide Velazquez (Washington-Liberty High School ’19) interned at Arlington Free Clinic
  • Joel Mehbratu (T.C. Williams High School) interned at Washington Speakers Bureau
  • Juan Albores (T.C. Williams High School) interned at Alexandria Renew Enterprises
  • Nuha Chowdhury (Washington-Liberty High School) interned at Virginia Tech

Adriana Escalante-Lopez, a 2015 graduate of Urban Alliance’s HSIP, was the event’s featured student speaker, sharing her journey from intern to software analyst. “Looking back on it now,” Adriana said, “joining UA was one of the best decisions of my life. I attribute much of my success to Urban Alliance and the great work they do.”

Adriana shared how she used the resume-writing, interviewing, and networking skills she learned through the program to not only get part-time work while studying at Old Dominion University, but also to land her “dream job” right out of school as a software analyst at local software company KITEWIRE, headquartered in Arlington. She said she remains “extremely grateful” to UA, adding that it was “an honor and a privilege” to be asked to speak to this year’s group of graduates “because once you’re part of UA, you’re always part of it.”

“Urban Alliance provided me with all the tools I needed to succeed,” Adriana told the graduating students. “As UA interns, you’ve all been given these tools as well and I cannot wait to see what you all do with them.”

Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1996, Urban Alliance expanded to Baltimore, Chicago, Northern Virginia (in 2013), and most recently, Detroit. The goal is to expand students’ idea of what is possible for the future and prepare them for lives of economic self-sufficiency. To date, Urban Alliance has placed over 5,000 students in paid internships, and served another 20,000 through job skills training. To provide this opportunity to the local youth who need it most, Urban Alliance Northern Virginia works directly with organizations and businesses in the region, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (UA Virginia’s largest and longest-term partner), Hilton, Mastercard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United Bank, Embassy Suites, and dozens more.