As I skateboarded around downtown Washington last summer, in my shabby shirt and torn up shoes, I thought the World Bank buildings were just some everyday banks, where one went to exchange international money.
Little did I know that the very next summer I would be catching the metro―instead of my skateboard―wearing a button up shirt, tie, slacks, and shiny shoes, to intern in the External Affairs department of the World Bank.
I and 24 other Washington, DC natives have had the opportunity to intern through the Urban Alliance, a program devoted to giving under-resourced high school seniors the opportunity to gain professional experience with local businesses, including the World Bank.
I know I am one of the few youth who have been given the opportunity to be employed this summer in Washington, DC.
Through the program’s weekly workshops, I have learned how to be more productive with my time, manage my money, and network.
I now organize my day according to what tasks I have to do and which are more of a priority. I make my own pocket money. Most importantly, I now know people who can help me get to where I want to go and I have the potential to keep myself there and accomplish my goals.
The time-management, financing, and networking skills that UA has equipped me with will carry on with me and help me effectively balance my academic, economical, and social life as I go off to Lafayette College this fall and beyond.
I am a Posse Scholar, meaning that I will be attending Lafayette College on the Posse Foundation Full Tuition Leadership Scholarship. The Posse Foundation sends a group of ten or eleven students, a “posse”, who are leaders and come from diverse backgrounds, to top-tier colleges and universities around the nation with the goal of graduating.
Thanks to UA and the Posse Foundation, I have been given the chance to develop life-long skills, receive an invaluable education, and relieve my family and myself of the hardships of paying for college.
As I sit here at my desk at the World Bank and look at the other youth outside of my own world, I realize that opportunity is the main difference between the employed and unemployed.
In developing countries, I see youth are becoming upset because of countries poor educational systems not providing them with the knowledge and training for employment, and that was one of the reasons why we saw many youths rioting in the streets of Egypt this spring.
With the European economy cutting spending and reducing national debts, comes along the cutting of several employment programs.
Youth are directly affected by these government decisions. We see that fewer chances are given to go out into the workforce. I see that some youth in DC have insignificant work tasks, low earnings, and difficulty in finding and preserving jobs.
That is why I feel sympathy for the youth that are participating in the London Riots. If I were directly affected by these government decisions, I would be outraged and ready to act, but through the political process.
Governments and organizations should create more opportunities for youth employment, because through their help youth also give back by contributing their work and creating change.
The potential of young people should be a priority for investment. I sense people are realizing that the youth employment initiatives are making progress. The Urban Alliance internship program is proof of this kind of change.
As the years go on, I hope to see bigger changes in the way the economy, society, and government approach youth in the workforce. Opening doors by providing opportunity is vital for youth, because youth will always be growing into the voice, eyes, hands, and minds of a better tomorrow.