Alexandria, VA – The opportunity to spend three weeks in the workplace is one of the highlights of the year for the T.C. Williams graduating class but the 2020 Senior Experience was a little different than was expected.
What was on track to be the biggest group since the program began, with approximately 450 seniors expressing an interest, dwindled to spots for just 23 Titans. But amongst those 23 were Joshua Cato and Ahadu Arefe-Aine – two young men who were able to benefit from the mentorship of Victor Powell, the principal of Matthew Maury Elementary School. Mr. Powell had planned to have the students come into school to work but when Covid hit and the buildings closed, plans changed.
Instead, he spent weeks “virtually coaching” the skills that will help both boys prepare for adult life. He said, “For me, being part of this program is about paying it forward. You get dividends when you give. And this is what I enjoy doing, it’s fun. I like talking to youth about their goals and how to work to achieve them.”
Powell added, “I could have definitely benefited from a genuine mentorship from someone in the community when I was Joshua’s and Ahadu’s age. Young people need encouragement from people around them. I remember what it felt like to not have it all together. I remember being in their shoes and not knowing what way I wanted to go or how. The fact that they have volunteered for this program told me a lot about their personality and dedication. I’m very proud of both of them.”
“When Mr. Powell told me his story, it left me feeling [like] ‘hey, maybe I could be a principal.’ If I keep working, I can make things happen,” said Joshua Cato, who hopes to study business and sports management, said the experience gave him the belief that he could reach his goals.
“It was an experience that I think I needed and that a lot of other high school students around the US could use. It helped me gain more knowledge. Not just knowledge about entering the workforce, but also knowledge I can use for the rest of my life,” said Ahadu Arefe-Aine, who dreams of becoming a zookeeper.