For interns, a summer spent developing work skills, preparing for the future

Written by on September 4, 2013 in Seattle Housing Authority, Yesler Terrace - No comments

 

Pictured are (from left) Seattle Youth Employment Program summer interns Zem Zem Ahmed, Fatuma Mahmud, Abdullahi Adan, program coordinator Tizita Assefa and intern Ali Weliyl.

Pictured are (from left) Seattle Youth Employment Program summer interns Zem Zem Ahmed, Fatuma Mahmud, Abdullahi Adan, program coordinator Tizita Assefa and intern Ali Weliyl.

By Tyler Roush
The Voice editor

For the young people in the Summer Youth Engagement Program’s (SYEP) internship program, the summer season was much more than a vacation. For six Yesler Terrace residents, it was a chance to develop the skills that will help them succeed in college and in their careers.

“Because it’s set up like an internship, they have the same expectations regular employees would,” said Tizita Assefa, SYEP program coordinator.

SYEP (not to be confused with the City of Seattle’s similarly titled Seattle Youth Employment Program) provides young people living in Yesler Terrace with hands-on experience in such fields as urban planning, construction, development, media and communications. The Seattle Housing Authority program grew out of the Yesler 2014 youth internship program.

Much more than a summer job, the program helps students plan for a career, Assefa said.

“(The interns) learn about different industries — and then that allows them to know if they want to continue to explore that field,” Assefa said. That experience, in turn, allows the students to develop excellent references and networking opportunities.
“One door opens another,” Assefa said.

On a sunny afternoon in late July, the SYEP interns and program coordinator Assefa met for their weekly check-in, which combines team-building, presentations and a weekly debrief.

For Ali Weliyl, a recent graduate of Garfield High School, the experience has taught him the value of teamwork.

“Doing things together is faster,” he said. “When working as a team, we can get anything done.”

Galma Waqo’s internship was at the Yesler Community Center, where he worked the phones and staffed the front desk, answering questions. He said the work made him feel professional, and that it will “look good on my résumé.”

Participants develop job readiness skills, including proper work attire, communication and interpersonal skills, and punctuality, while being engaged in an actual work environment. In addition to receiving valuable experience, interns are compensated for the hours they put in.

Fatuma Mahmud’s internship was with the Seattle Housing Authority communications department. She assisted Technical Communications Specialist Laura Gentry with a redesign and update to the NewHolly neighborhood website among other projects.

She said she’s interested in movies and media, which made the role a great fit.

“The communications department was really good for me,” she said. “It’s pretty interesting, and it’s always exciting when I come in.”

Though working on the website took some getting used to, she said it “was pretty easy once I got the hang of it.”

Zemzem Ahmed (left) and Fatuma Mahmud present a report on the Yesler Terrace redevelopment to their peers in the SYEP program.

Zemzem Ahmed (left) and Fatuma Mahmud present a report on the Yesler Terrace redevelopment to their peers in the SYEP program.

Zemzem Ahmed also interned with Seattle Housing Authority, working with Senior Housing Developer Kathlyn Paananen on the Yesler Terrace redevelopment.

“I’ve learned about the housing authority and the work they do,” Ahmed said. “I like the work — it keeps me busy during the summer.”

For Abdullahi Adan, his summer with Washington Hall and Historic Seattle was spent supporting the agency’s efforts in preserving historic landmarks around the city. Adan helped process easement paperwork, organize property records and assist in data entry.

“I like working with computers,” Adan said.

The summer internship program wasn’t the only opportunity for Yesler youth this summer.

Daniel Robinson is a youth in Ground Up Organics, an urban farming program in Yesler Terrace. Robinson, a freshman at Garfield High School, said that he sees multiple benefits to growing his own food.

“I want to learn how to garden successfully, plant my own crops and grow my own food,” he began. “It saves you money … and you can use it as a trade, to pick, harvest and sell your own food.”

It’s also a benefit to those living in so-called “food deserts,” where the nearest grocery store might be miles away, and access to fresh produce is limited.

“Some places might not have a grocery store,” Robinson said.

Assefa coordinates both programs, and there’s a natural overlap between the two — many of the SYEP interns also participate in Ground Up. And with amenities for urban farming included in the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, the program dovetails with the goals of the SYEP. The program’s motto: “Building soil, self and community.”

The Ground Up program, which runs annually in 12-week cycles, relies on word of mouth and referrals for enrollment, Assefa noted. Teens who are interested in participating may contact Tizita Assefa at tizitaassefa@gmail.com.

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