By Junior Associate: Lincoln Boyd
During my first few hours as a UELIP I was given several menial tasks. I was told to create organizational tables of the programs offered by local high schools, find captivating images and videos of government related work, and take a sample test to see if it was fitting for middle schoolers. After completing those tasks I did not do anything else for the rest of the day besides ask my supervisors if there was anything else I could do and wander around the office. I was looking for an exciting, fast-paced internship in education administration and felt like I had made a major mistake. I had recently read “Radical” by Michelle Rhee and wanted to see what all the contention was about at DCPS, but found nothing.
On day two my fortune had taken a turn for the best. My UELIP supervisor essentially told me that I had passed “the test” by completing the mindless tasks satisfactorily. Then came my new assignment: DC Meets Washington. DC Meets Washington is a pilot program that seeks to expose middle school students to career and college pathways. The program is rooted in the idea that if students are given a clear vision of what it takes to assume a career in government, IT, engineering, or hospitality they will reach the benchmarks necessary to find themselves where they want to be. However, there was a catch.
Overnight, I essentially inherited the role of logistics coordinator, community outreach director, and semi-project manager for this project – as a UELIP associate. As an individual I felt myself progressing, however I took a moment to reflect on what was occurring simultaneously. I asked myself, “Why is an intern conducting such high level work?” I became disheartened with unnecessary expenditures, the low expectations set for students, the lack of accountability/oversight, and the absence of leadership in our schools I witnessed in this position. I am now halfway through my internship and have a lot of questions that need to be answered before I depart.
However, I am not entirely jaded. I have been working with local business leaders for Sirius XM, NASA, the Metropolitan Police Department, 1776, FEMA, Senate Staffers, and many others. I even had the opportunity to meet and listen to our First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the Department of Education to kick off National Summer Learning Day. I immediately fell in love with the level of autonomy I had and the meaningful ends I was laboring towards. As the planning for DC Meets Washington ensued, I found myself acquiring the skills necessary to managing a major project for an urban public school system. Professional development was also a tremendous benefit – I have learned the power of effective communication, meeting and setting deadlines, delegating tasks, proactive collaboration, community outreach, feedback, and many other skills.
This is the genius behind the UELIP program – giving passionate, young college students the opportunity to jump into education administration and to take on the challenges plaguing our schools with new, innovative ideas. That is why they let an intern like myself conduct such high level work. Even though I may disagree at times with how DCPS operates, I am thankful my UELIP experience has given me the agency to tackle educational woes. It has opened my eyes to the everyday operations and challenges urban school districts endure.
The UELIP program is developing the next generation of leaders in education. The level of ambition and passion among by peers is electric and the UELIP program channels this towards improving the operations of urban school districts. The friends, connections, skills and experience I will walk away with when my internship ends will forever shape my future pursuits and my outlook on urban school districts.