- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

There are eight young people wearing blue blazers and gray trousers roaming the John A. Wilson Building. The D.C. residents make up the inaugural class of the D.C. Council Youth Internship Program, the brainchild of Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

Interns are not new to the council. However, the CYIP, as it is called, is its first official program, designed to give D.C. high school juniors and seniors professional and educational experience in the council’s central offices.

The internships are managed by the council’s Office of Youth Programs, a new office that Mr. Gray, a Democrat, created last year.

“Youth are at the heart of the community” said Cedric Jennings, director of Youth Programs. “We expect our interns to provide fresh ideas and insight into their age groups. In turn, we plan to provide District youth with a unique opportunity to learn about the nuts-and-bolts work of the legislative branch of government.”



The students, who reside across the city and attend various public and charter schools, are gaining inside knowledge and experience.

Markeytta Harrison, a senior at Coolidge High School, is interning with the Committee on Health, which is chaired by council member David Catania, at-large independent. Robert C. Andrews Jr., a senior at Roosevelt High School, is assigned to the Office of Support Services, which provides administrative support to council offices.

“Before the program started, we expected a classroom or busy-work environment,” Markeytta said. “However, the hands-on experience and training has proven to be completely different from what we expected from an internship for people in high school.”

The program was set up not only for students with high grade-point averages, but also for those who demonstrate leadership skills and involvement in the community. More than 100 students applied for the CYIP.

Mr. Jennings said it was important for the interns to represent different areas of the District. They also had to have a class schedule to meet their minimum work hours, for which they receive a stipend.

Mr. Gray said, “I was extremely pleased about the high interest and competition for the intern slots among the city’s youth. We’ve been able to select young people with varied interests, those who have excelled academically, students who already have shown a commitment to serving the community, and many we expect to become leaders in government or in whatever careers they choose.”

Interns receive weekly training covering subjects such as customer relations, etiquette and public speaking. They also are required to volunteer with community service projects like Food and Friends.

“I am getting an opportunity to see how the local government works to better serve residents,” Robert said. One of his duties is to help prepare the chambers for legislative hearings. “I am enjoying my time here, and my mind is open to experience many new things during my internship with the council.”

HongQian Zhu, a high school senior, interns in the D.C. Council’s Office of Information Technology.

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