Urban League of Greater Madison 21st
Century Careers Program
Developing Future Leaders
By Hedi Rudd

This year 28 students from James C. Wright Middle School in Madison, and Patrick Marsh
and Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie participated in the Urban League of Greater
Madison 21st Century Careers program, culminating in a graduation ceremony at Madison
Area Technical College’s Truax Campus. Surrounded by family and their employment
mentors, the youth took front and center as their achievements were applauded.

Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, Madison College, Lucía
Nuñez welcomed the packed room, recognizing that the program is an incredible opportunity
for young people to be connected to the business community. The after-school and summer
programming provide low-income and potential first-generation college students with
opportunities to explore career and college pathways. Youth receive academic support,
explore college and career options, visit college campuses, and learn job skills through
summer career awareness internships. More than 90 percent of students who participate
indicate that they now see college as more likely in their future.

Nuñez pointed out the importance of education and encouraged the youth to consider
education past high school, with Madison College being one of many options available to
youth in the Madison area.

Urban League President and CEO, Dr. Ruben Anthony thanked the college for hosting the
event, which has become an annual tradition. “I am overjoyed that around 30 students
participated in this program and they stuck it out throughout the whole summer. We know
that they could have been doing a lot of things this summer and we are really happy to work
with them. Several are from Sun Prairie and their work was temporarily interrupted. Thanks
to those who helped to reassign them. We stand strongly with Mayor Esser and the Sun
Prairie Community.”

Project Reach Coordinator Tom Brown shared his reflections. “I am honored to be here to
congratulate our interns for a successful summer,” Brown said. “I am pleased with the
progress and effort that the interns have made this summer. We have done many activities
that have helped them learn more about college, careers and employment. For example, we
took a trip to UW Madison campus, we heard from professionals about their careers and we
had classroom trainings on how to obtain a job. These students learned many employment
lessons that will prepare them for their futures.”

Senior Talent Acquisition Partner, Madison Gas & Electric, Laura Kaker, a site supervisor
worked with Christopher Covarrubias who was the youngest of the high school interns. She
described Christopher as “Smart, engaged, thoughtful and incredibly capable.” He was
never, late, always early and always smiling.
At times, Kaker shared, it could be daunting to place student interns, but once staff had the chance to work with them they realized there was not much the young
people couldn’t do. “This summer, our interns learned how energy is generated and distributed, they made a video clip that has been used internally and externally
to highlight a local business collaboration and renewable energy infrastructure, they provided feedback on products and services, performed energy audits,
construction job site visits and chaperoned at Middle School STEAM Camp and so much more.”

Project Reach Intern, Joy Swift told her story. After joining Careers Club at Wright Middle School, she learned the skills necessary to prepare for college and to meet
her future goals. “Being assigned to a site, to work for six weeks changed my life and showed me sometimes, someone or somebody is going to need you or will be
there to guide you. Being at Catholic Charities really opened my eyes to many things in life and showed me how life can be.”

Following the completion ceremony, the audience heard from Soniya Jimenez, who had spent her internship at Sun Prairie City Hall. Jimenez shared her success
story.

“For 13 years of my life, I saw success as something so grand that it had to be out of my reach for me to truly relish it. A 4.0, honor roll, perfect attendance, teachers’
pet, the list was rather short, but high in expectations. I’m not saying I was wrong for 13 years of my life, but I can say I wasn’t all that successful not while I saw
success in only that way.”
“Completing this program, meeting my
supervisors, my peers, even standing here
speaking for three minutes, I have succeeded, I am
successful.”

“I am an introvert and until two years ago, that was
the worst thing in my life. The world is a sociable
place. I was not ready for it. I can tell you with
confidence, this program has been an important
milestone for me, in team building my
communication skills. This is something I have
been working on for years.”

“After all is said and done. I am still an introvert. I
am going to walk off this stage, exhausted with
exhilaration, because I am now armed with a
foundation of study skills and confidence that will
help me to persevere into success, not only in high
school and college, but also, most importantly, in
my career and in life.”

Kudos to the young people who like Soniya, took a
chance on themselves and found new skills, new
experiences and reached into the community for
the guidance needed to explore their 21st Century
Career goals.