“I’m interested in Computer Science, but what can it look like in the workplace?” Ali Mohammed, a high school student in the Kenan Refugee Project’s Citizenship Lab, has been asking himself this question. Come August, after his internship in Durham Public Schools’ IT department, he may have found an answer. Ali and his fellow Cit Lab’ers Deo Niyomuremyi and Saad Ellahi begin work this week as a part of the City of Durham’s YouthWork Paid Internship program. The program places students in either a business or non-profit in Durham for six to eight weeks. Deo, Saad, and Ali are the first Citizenship Lab students to participate in YouthWork.
The interns are excited for work. Deo looks forward to gaining valuable work experience that will help him when he applies for college next year. Ali, a rising junior, has a say-yes approach to opportunities like YouthWork; when they arise he says, “I should take it.” Another Lab student, Omran Sawas, will participate in Made in Durham’s Youth Network this coming fall. Omran will collaborate with thirty young community leaders from around Durham to work on projects that remove barriers to academic success in Durham Public Schools.
The Citizenship Lab supports high school and college-age newcomers as they address migration’s most vexing challenges in Durham and the U.S. The Lab is built on relationships between newcomers and Duke undergraduates. They work together to reveal individual and community issues in education, employment, transportation, and housing. Then, Lab members collaboratively devise ways to address these challenges.
This past year Ali, Deo, Saad, and Omran participated in a series of Citizenship Lab workshops designed to help them balance school and work and develop college and career skills. They talked to speakers about career pathways in our region, created their first resumes, and honed interviewing and image management techniques. These skills came in handy as they successfully negotiated the competitive internship process. Next year the internship veterans will draw on their experiences to help lead these workshops.
The Citizenship Lab has three core goals: academic excellence, leadership, and robust citizenship. Bringing together about Duke students with high-school-age refugees weekly, The Citizenship Lab inspires community change through individual and collective action.