How My Urban Alliance Mentor Helped Me Succeed

By Tray McGhaney

I first joined Urban Alliance, a program that places high school students with paid internships, my junior year in high school. For the first few weeks, before we actually started our internships, we had pre-work--workshops that consisted of different topics such as professionalism, how to dress, and manage your money.

My favorite part of the Urban Alliance program? Interning at LINK, a strategic communications and marketing firm. They work with for-profit and non-profit organizations. While working at LINK, I helped with graphic designs for company logos, helped to plan community engagement events and supported staff on different research projects. Attending meetings and events were the best parts of the job, because I was able to meet really important people around DC and attend events most people don't get the opportunity to attend.

The most important person I met during my internship was actually my mentor, Michael Akin, president of LINK. He had a major impact on my life, much greater than I would have ever expected.

Something that stood out to me that he said was how much care he had for me. If I ever had a struggle that I needed help with he would do the best he can to help, which he definitely showed me last year.

Navigating College Applications
Last year, I applied early for my first-choice college and waited patiently for them to respond. But I never heard from them. After reviewing the status of my application online, I realized they had never even reviewed it. They claimed I had not paid the application fee, even though I had submitted a fee waiver with the application. I continued to follow up with the university for months, waiting for them to approve the application, but I received no answer.
Then Michael stepped in.

Michael was astonished when I told him about my situation, and he told me he would do whatever he could to help me get into the school I wanted to attend. He reached out to the undergraduate admissions counselor and put in a good word for me. Most importantly, he helped me to get my application reviewed, and I was eventually accepted to the university.

Helping with Enrollment Fees
Even though I was finally accepted, we ran into another problem. Because my application was reviewed and approved so late in the process, I had only one week to submit a $300 housing deposit and $250 enrollment deposit. My family wasn't prepared to submit a deposit so quickly.

Michael and the Urban Alliance program were determined to help me succeed, so they covered the deposits and got the fees paid.

This is just one example of why my internship with Urban Alliance was so great. Not only did I obtain professional skills while participating in the program, but I also obtained skills that I'll continue to use after I graduate college and join the workforce.

Tray McGhaney, 19, is a student participant with Urban Alliance, a year-long employment program for under-resourced high school seniors in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, and Chicago, IL. This blog is part of a series highlighting the stories of young people in their own voice who are engaging with 2015 Youth Opportunity Fund grantees which are geared toward placing low-income youth on a path towards college and career success. The $3 million Fund is led by the Citi Foundation and America's Promise Alliance.