Zion Rice, a 16-year-old in Annapolis High School, was walking through downtown Annapolis this summer when a man pulled up in a car and handed him a business card. The man was William Rowel, senior adviser to Mayor Gavin Buckley.
“I was walking a friend home from a slumber party not far from City Hall when Mr. Rowel pulled up next to us,” Rice said. “He told us about our future and told us about an internship he was leading at the town hall. My friend said he was too lazy but I applied and here I am.
Rice was among 25 other young townspeople selected to be part of the OneAnnapolis Summer Work initiative, a Buckley office program that provides participants with on-the-job training and paid work experience in city services. such as fire, finance and police.
The initiative aims to engage and support young people in the community and ensure that every young person has an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive through opportunity, determination and skill development, Rowel said.
“What we wanted to do was conscientiously [eliminate] some of the normal barriers that exist for young people and specifically people of color in some communities who don’t have access to as many opportunities to participate in things of this nature,” he said. . “To ensure that everyone had a chance, we did not specify academic criteria for our applicants.”
The competitive application process has seen 80 applicants whittled down to 25. Since the program launched in the summer of 2020, a collaboration between Ward 6 Alderman DaJuan Gay and Buckley’s office, it has grown each year from 12 trainees to 15 last year and 25 this summer.
“We just want to provide an entry point for young people interested in public service to get a sense of how it all works,” Gay said. “Based on the results of those we selected, it seems to be working.”
The program spans five weeks and is open to high school and college students between the ages of 14 and 23. Students under 18 are paid $20 per hour. Those over 18 are paid $25 per hour.
Salary was a selling point for interns like Shawn Pollard, 22, a Towson University senior who has ambitions beyond city hall.
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“I’ve been heavily involved in state and local politics since my junior year of college, so this was a fun opportunity to stay involved and generate income to continue funding my bachelor’s degree,” Pollard said. “I want to be a lawyer and maybe one day a Supreme Court judge.”
While some of the interns are like Pollard who worked in politics before this opportunity, other interns like Mousa Toure, 23, a computer science major at Anne Arundel Community College are new to the experience.
“I moved from Senegal to America in 2020 because I wanted to pursue a career in IT. The transition from learning mainly French to English was a huge transition, but I worked hard and am very grateful for this opportunity with the mayor’s office,” Touré said.
Stories like Touré’s are indicative of the reach of this program. Rowel, Gay and others believe that by investing in interns and using them to their full potential, the city government adds to its own value.
“When you create clear pathways for talented people in our communities, you gain new perspectives and you create a better prepared member of our workforce,” Rowel said.
In the first two weeks of the program, many trainees have already learned a lot about what goes on in city governance. Especially Rice who admittedly hadn’t thought much about politics or local government until Rowel spoke to her that day.
“It’s very interesting,” Rice said. “I wanted to do this because I had a hard time communicating publicly, but I’m getting used to working with others and seeing how community government works. It’s cool.”