Study participants were high school seniors in 2011–12 and 2012–13 from 38 public and charter schools located in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD.
The majority of the study participants were female (65%) and Black (89%), with 5 percent identifying as Hispanic, 2 percent as white, and 4 percent as another race or ethnicity. Eleven percent were English language learners and 9 percent were in special education. Nearly a quarter of the students (23%) reported that no adults in their household were employed, although three quarters of applicants reported at least some prior work experience of their own. Students were drawn from schools where 77 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
The Urban Alliance High School Internship Program provides training, mentoring, and work experience to at-risk high school seniors from distressed communities. The goal of the program is to help youth successfully transition to higher education or employment after graduation by offering them training, an internship, and mentoring. Key components of the program include: (1) a paid internship in an office setting; (2) soft and hard skills job training, which occurs both before the internship in the “pre-work” phase as well as through the remainder of the year; (3) coaching and mentoring; and (4) alumni services consisting of individual coaching, alumni events, and paid internship opportunities during the summer break from college. Youth begin the program in the fall of their senior year by attending a 3- to 6-week (depending on location) pre-training workshop for 1 to 1.5 hours each day after school. After completing the pre-training workshop, youth are paired with a paid internship based on skill levels, needs, interests, and the range of internships available. Participants work at their internships from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. after school Monday through Thursday during the school year. During the summer following graduation (and optionally during winter and spring breaks), interns work full days Monday through Thursday. Program coordinators continue mentoring and coaching the youth throughout the program. They track their performance in workshop and job attendance, punctuality, workshop homework assignments, academic progress, and post–high school planning. Program coordinators support youth emotionally and connect them with any external resources they may need.
The comparison condition received business as usual, and consisted of students who applied to the Urban Alliance program but were not accepted into the program.
Support for implementation
Urban Alliance conducts training workshops, including pre-work training before the start of the internship, and workshops after the internships start. Interns are typically employed and paid by Urban Alliance while working at their internship sites, though select job sites pay interns directly. In addition to the workshops, program coordinators provide job mentoring and general coaching, track individual student performance, and connect students with external resources to meet their needs.