Khadijah Gikeneh grew up east of the Anacostia River, a traditionally underserved part of Washington, DC, and experienced a traumatic childhood marked by personal loss. “There were times growing up where I felt like I was at rock bottom and I didn’t have much hope,” Khadijah recalled. “Though I can appreciate all the tough moments, I do wish that I had someone that I could talk to, vent to, and that could help me through.” Khadijah persevered, and her experience inspired her to pursue a career in social work, to one day become the support and listening ear for others that she didn’t have growing up.
Through Urban Alliance, Khadijah was able to work at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) during her senior year of high school, where she got a head start on her future career by gaining firsthand experience in community wellness work. She had the opportunity to work with young people who came into the center and participated in community outreach projects. Khadijah also wowed her co-workers by digitizing the department’s files and getting them caught up on a backlog of data entry.
Most importantly for Khadijah, though, her internship showed her what her future career could look like, and increased her passion for helping others. “There is so much love and genuine care at the youth center that it feels like a home for everyone, including me,” Khadijah said. “I hope to one day have an impact on the lives of youth in my community and help rebuild my DC, just like LAYC does every day.”
Now, she says, “I love the fact the I went through a lot during my upbringing because it has built my distinct character.” Khadijah is now studying social work at Morgan State University. “Urban Alliance has given me an amazing opportunity to jump start on a plan I have created for my future,” she said.