By Sara Bosworth
Queens Daily Eagle
It has been a summer to remember — and to add to resumes — for 54 young people employed as interns by the NYC Department of Design and Construction.
On Friday, the 54 DDC interns, a mix of students from 24 local high schools and 16 colleges and graduate schools located in every borough of New York City, gathered in Long Island City for a closing ceremony the 10-week paid program.
Each one spent the summer at DDC in a technically-oriented internship program, getting hands-on experience with engineering, architecture, construction, and design.
Wilmer Zuna, a student at Midwood High School in Brooklyn and aspiring engineer, took the stage at the ceremony to speak on behalf of the high school interns.
“On the first day of our internship,” Zuna recalled, “We were introduced to DDC professionals who shared similar backgrounds [to us] and faced similar adversities. I was relieved to see individuals speak about their challenges and how they overcame them. It made me understand that I could do the same.”
The DDC internship program aims to provide young New Yorkers with technical education and mentorship, said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo.
“DDC summer internships expose students to the day-to-day work that goes into careers in engineering, architecture and construction and provides them with the tools to translate that knowledge into personal success,” Grillo said at the closing ceremony. “The positions are competitive; this year only 55 applicants were chosen out of a pool of 1,000. Each intern receives a personal mentor for the duration of the program from one of the DDC divisions, and spends the summer engaging first-hand in DDC projects, making visits to construction sites, working on beautification and clean-up projects, and learning management skills.
With its unprecedented housing and construction boom, Long Island City served as a fitting location for the culminating event.
“The exposure to civil engineering and construction that our interns have gained this summer is invaluable,” said Lee Llambelis, DDC Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships and STEAM Initiatives. “Especially in New York City, an urban landscape that is ever-changing in response to the needs of its people and environment.”
The program is conducted as a part of DDC’s STEAM education initiative, which was introduced in 2014 as a way to create a diverse and inclusive pipeline for New York City’s youth to participate in STEAM-based industries. Since its inception, DDC STEAM has served over 2,500 students, through summer internships, enrichment programs for middle schoolers, and a partnership with the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development. “The jobs of the future will be found in architecture, engineering, and construction management sectors,” said Llambelis. “It is crucially important that we expose our young people to rigor and high expectations of the industry in a professional setting.”
Brenna Hemmings, another DDC summer intern who is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Hunter College in Manhattan, urged her fellow interns to keep learning.
“Take what you learn and share it with others,” she said. “The minute I learned about how capital projects were funded — that was all that I talked about to my family and friends. You never know what’ll spark something in you.”