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Public Speaking Competition Culminates Internship Program

When DCPS graduate and aspiring realtor Sharrif Cox-Davis embarked on his college journey at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week, he did so more confidently and was better able to communicate before large audiences about his academic and professional experience and career goals.

Cox-Davis credited his nine-month internship at Pacific Western Bank, acquired through his participation in the local nonprofit Urban Alliance, with his new demeanor and improved cadence. For him, completing this milestone meant making what he considered a serious sacrifice.

“I was so focused on my senior year and playing basketball, but once the time came, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do Urban Alliance and basketball,” said Cox-Davis, 18, an 2019 graduate of Eastern Senior High School.

During his internship, Cox-Davis worked alongside members of the Pacific Western Bank’s loan department where he saw remnants of what he would study in his pursuit of a business degree.

“In the end, I realized it was about my future,” he said. “[In the past nine months], I learned to multitask. My internship prepared me for colleague engagement. It’s always good to build a bond with people around you, and having confidence. I was the youngest in my department, so I had to prove I belonged there.”

Cox-Davis counted among 160 D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland, high school graduates who reflected on their internship experience at a public speaking competition at the World Bank late last month.

Nearly 100 community leaders and local professionals served as judges and networked with the youth. That morning, some students received awards and scholarships. Seth Goldman, founder of the multimillion-dollar business Honest Tea, also gave the keynote address.

The July 31 event culminated Urban Alliance’s high school internship program, consisting of a six-week professional development training, ongoing mentorship, life skills workshops, and a nine-month stint at one of several D.C.-area internship sites, some of which included Children’s National Medical Center, 21st Century Fox, and Clark Construction. In the weeks leading up to the event, students prepared the images and text for their presentations, and sharpened their public speaking skills during practice sessions.

The Urban Alliance High School Internship Program counts among a bevy of offerings intended to bolster self-sufficiency in young people from underserved communities in D.C., Montgomery County and across the United States. Since 1996, Urban Alliance has placed 4,000 students in paid internships, and another 18,000 in job skills training, mostly through collaborations with local public and charter schools, and community partners.

“We’re helping our students bring out who they are authentically,” said Monique Rizer, executive director of Urban Alliance DC. “In a professional space, you need a different communications vehicle. They’re pretty much an enhanced version of themselves. That’s where we see the change. Our goal is to give them the tools to be successful, and we feel like we’re achieving that.”

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