Anacostia High School students earn hands-on STEM skills through DAWN’s Early College summer internship program

Anacostia High School students earn hands-on STEM skills through DAWN’s Early College summer internship program

Anacostia High School students earn hands-on STEM skills through DAWN’s Early College summer internship program

President Ronald Mason speaks to Anacostia High School junior Keion Williams and his mother, Summer, at the Anacostia back-to-school event on August 29.

Several Anacostia High School students completed the inaugural UDC Summer Internship Program under UDC’s Developing America’s Workforce Nucleus (DAWN) Initiative. The interns presented findings from a community asset mapping project with the U.S. Department of Interior, UDC mentors and other government agencies. The group set out to assess Anacostia’s environmental landscape, identify challenges and share ideas toward a positive outlook for the Ward 8 community.

The students developed vital skills that are critical in STEM education and careers. Their presentations captured interviews with community leaders and organizations in Anacostia. Students conducted research and learned how to analyze data. They met with UDC, the Department of Interior Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance and the National Park Service Stewardship Institute to compile content for the project.

The community asset mapping project evaluated six areas that impact day-to-day Anacostia living: mental health, healthcare access, housing, food insecurity, safety and education. The interns shared several insightful conclusions after examining Anacostia’s assets. For overall health considerations, community parks are nature’s clinics. Trails and green spaces can reduce blood pressure and help people work through trauma. Reading programs have expanded to include story time and free book distribution. The effort has been organized by Oxon Run Park in partnership with local police. To address food insecurity, community gardens are being established by NGOs and UDC. Also, community-supported agriculture programs bring food to Anacostia at a discount where SNAP and WIC can be used. To move beyond obstacles, partnerships with government, community and pro-bono legal organizations need to continue, the students said.

Wrapping up the presentation at the Department of Interior, the students shared their learnings from this inaugural DAWN internship. One student concluded that the government may have incorrectly managed work that harmed the Anacostia community. Now government agencies are working to correct problems with assistance from other organizations (pollution has been a problem in Anacostia for decades). Now the community and organizations are coming together to act. Cleaning up litter in Anacostia is a top priority. Then one student indicated he had a better understanding of equity.

According to Anacostia High School Principal William Haith, “the critical thinking and engaging environmental conversations they had is a pure example of equity.”

This project also allowed the students to think about personal education and career goals. Students could discuss their career vision during a question-and-answer session with the audience.

“Being a doctor is one of my career choices. In my community, we do not go to the doctor as we should,” a student named Erica said. “When we think about places around D.C. where we were affected by the environment, you go down the line and see how their kids have been affected.”

DAWN rethinks public education to produce more business and entrepreneurship-ready STEM talent by exploring diverse ways to identify human potential beyond the usual high-stakes standardized assessments. It also reimagines the learning process, particularly in the STEM disciplines, so that it better refines the talents of economically disadvantaged students and students of color; and builds seamless, multi-credentialed talent production pipelines, with multiple off- and on-ramps, from the community through to careers.

On August 29, the high school held an event to welcome students back to campus for the 2022-2023 school year. The event featured President Ronald Mason Jr., who spoke about UDC’s commitment to the DAWN initiative and Early College Program. Principal Haith, Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. and Ralph Bolton of Pepco Holdings, one of the sponsors for the summer internship program, were also on hand to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year. It was a lively gathering with radio hosts, games and giveaways. Students in attendance said that they were excited to get the year underway.

For more information about the DAWN initiative, please click here.