Hire KC interns preparing today to lead tomorrow

WRITTEN BY: Langston Gray + Eleanor Nash, Hire KC Interns

If you ask Harmoni Moore to describe a typical day-in-the-life of a Hire KC intern, her initial answer may sound a bit vague. Nothing about her response is deceptive, but the truth is her days are rarely typical.

“My day to day is not really the same, because we do different things,” Harmoni said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why I like this internship so much.”

Harmoni, a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., spent the summer as a marketing intern at Aim4Peace in the Kansas City Health Department. Some days, Harmoni worked in the office on the iRise social media campaign, and other days she embraced the opportunity to attend community events so she could talk with people about violence prevention.

Each year, high school and college students like Harmoni come to work at City Hall and various other city departments to gain real-world experience and workplace confidence. The program typifies the commitment for youth development that has been a hallmark of Mayor Sly James’ two terms in office. The Hire KC Youth program connects young people with professional opportunities and mentors – both of whom view this program as successful and essential.

“Jobs build a lot of character traits that you want citizens to have, and we want a lot of good citizens in Kansas City, so we wanted [young people] working at the earliest opportunity,” Mayor James said.

Nick Dorn is the Director of Education/Learning at KC Social Innovation, which runs Hire KC Youth. Dorn says the purpose of the program is “to outfit young people ages 16 to 24 with workplace learning opportunities.”

Placing the interns with the right divisions is not an exact science, but the positive results are worth the effort. With that in mind, interns are steered toward companies, non-profits, or municipal government departments that match their strengths and interests. In 2018, there were more than 80 part-time summer interns assigned to 12 City departments. City interns get to experience many different skills on the job, working on assignments ranging from airport policing at the Aviation Department, video production in the City Communications office to fire rescue in the Fire Department.

Applying is easy enough for the students familiar with the program or those who have career advisers on campus to guide them along. Others have to be more industrious in order to toss their hats into the ring and reach the point where they, too, can apply through Hire KC Youth online job board.

The path for Nancy Le, Event Coordination Intern at the Office of Culture and Creative Services, was traditional. “Anyone who attends UMKC got an email, like, ‘Hey, there’s like a career fair, go check it out, it’s free!” From there, students can attend the Hire KC Youth job fair, held in March or April, and speak directly to employers from the public and private sector.

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“I met my current supervisor [at the job fair] and she kind of sold this idea of this internship to me,” recounts Chris Palmer, who interned in the Mayor’s Office.

The program also has enough built-in flexibility to keep the door open so that some non-traditional applicants can enter. Just ask University of Illinois at Chicago student Taylor Holmes, another Mayor’s Office intern last summer. “I tried to make the job fair, but my flight was delayed coming home from school,” she said. “So I was happy to receive an email interview from Juan [Taylor’s supervisor].”

As an intern in the Mayor’s office, Luan Luu got a deep look into racial equity. As a result, Luu will forever be able to share stories about the time he helped spark a conversation on the long-term effects of racial discrimination. “Today, so far, I have compiled a list of articles about racial equity to post on the community alliance race and equity initiative,” said Luan, a senior majoring in business at Park University.

Luan’s supervisor understands the values of internships. Juan Ramiro Sarmiento is Mayor James’ Special Assistant for Strategic Initiatives and Public Policy. He supervises Luan and two other interns.

Sarmiento appreciates the contributions his interns made to jumpstart this project. The interns were on the frontline of a project that had no paid staff but needed substantial help getting off the ground. In the past, Juan was an intern for two members of Congress: “working for those people, one, inspired me, but two, that they even gave me the opportunity to get into the door did a lot for my career and where I am here today, as a 24-year-old policy advisor for Mayor James.”

Although only a freshman at Pittsburg State University, Tone ‘Nae Bradley-Toomer is a veteran of sorts, having interned at the City for three summers. Most recently, she interned in Councilman Lee Barnes’ office. Her tasks included desk duty and sitting in on lots of meetings. “When you go into the internship, city employees have high expectations for you already,” she said. “You have the confidence to speak out during meetings or ask a question.”

In between posting on Instagram and attending community events, Harmoni found inspiration in the passion her coworkers have for their work. “Everybody here at Aim4Peace plays a part in something that’s much bigger than them and just to see their passion for what they do - those are connections that I’ll take with me.”

Visit hirekcyouth.org/ for more information and to apply.