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T.C. Williams Students Start Internships at Patent and Trademark Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has partnered with Urban Alliance and T.C. Williams High School to send 15 students to work as interns with them for the rest of the school year.

The students, who started their internships in late January, will get paid to work alongside lawyers, engineers, legal assistants and legal secretaries. The partnership is part of the Urban Alliance program, which helps establish internships at Fortune 500 and key businesses in Alexandria. The Patent and Trademark Office kicked off its partnership with Urban Alliance at the beginning of January and will be offering students the opportunity to work at the government organization.

“This is a huge deal. These students will get to work alongside engineers and lawyers and see how they work. It’s the government. It’s right here in Alexandria. People move from all over the United States to work at the Patent and Trade Office and yet our students are getting this opportunity while they are still at school,” said Patricia Braun, college and career specialist at T.C. Williams.
Students have to be in strong academic standing and graduation-ready to apply for the internships. Eligible students front load their academics, taking classes from 8:35 a.m. until 1:45 p.m. and then head to their chosen place of work. Students generally work from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at their internship site and participate in professional development training and post-high school planning sessions with Urban Alliance on Fridays.
The T.C. Williams students were delighted to find that they had their own I.D. and cubicle.
“I’ve already got a project. It’s a little complicated as I don’t know all the code, but it’s certainly interesting,” said information technology intern Niah Sample.
Niah’s project is to research a webpage call GITHUB for the PTO and put together a PowerPoint presentation on it for them.

Left, Niah Sample gets to work on high-tech research. Photo provided by ACPS.
“They want to know whether it’s used elsewhere for recruiting and which different government agencies use the website. I was originally meant to be working in food services in Arlington, but when this opportunity came up I was really happy,” Sample said.

Senior counselor Melissa Deak explained that Sample had proved herself in the pre-work session and had been identified as someone who had the skillset that the PTO was looking for.

The Patent and Trademark Office wanted Alexandria City Public School students who would voice opinions, ask clarifying questions and show intellectual curiosity while maintaining a professional demeanor.
“This is the second agency with our federal Government to form a partnership with Urban Alliance. One of their goals is to get our youth in the pipeline for U.S. government jobs. They are recognizing that our youth know a lot more than we often give them credit for and that their ideas can really help the PTO,” said Deak.
Half the current workforce at the PTO is made up of people aged 55 years and over. The idea behind the initiative is to introduce the idea of working in a government agency to the youth of today. Many students who complete paid internships return to work at the same agencies or companies in the future once they have the necessary qualifications such as a college degree.

“The Patent and Trademark Office is one of the most diverse organizations in the government. A lot of the top managers are women. They are aware that the U.S. is in a different place from years ago and are proactively tapping into the diversity, global thinking and energy of our young people,” said Deak.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee said, “We develop bright minds from a variety of backgrounds and it is our hope that the experience interns gain will be an important stepping stone in their careers.”

This is the second year that Urban Alliance has worked with students from T.C. Williams, however, next school year will be the first time it runs a fully accredited class at the school. The aim of the program is to provide youth with training and skills that will prepare them for the world of work and put them on a path to self-sufficiency. They match companies looking for skilled young future employees with the intent that after college or additional career training, the students will have the experience and credentials to effectively contribute to the workforce.

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