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News Release Student Interns > Illai Kenney
Illai Kenney

This summer I worked for the Department of Public Works as a Material Resource and Sustainability Intern. I spent the summer learning everything there is to know about materials and resources including how they are managed and utilized. I worked with Howard University, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and local businesses like Busboys and Poets. I’ve been to a landfill, an incinerator, compost facility transfer station, and a materials recovery facility.

I’ve learned that recycling is an intricate business. Almost 80 percent of the materials we use in our daily lives are either recyclable or compostable. We could also save ourselves a lot of money by recycling. It takes 96% less energy to make a new aluminum Coke can from a used aluminum can than it does to make it from scratch. While working at the Convention Center, I learned about creating functional recycling programs. They have a color-coded system that matches a color with the material that should go in the bin. It works well to get people to participate in recycling by being able to easily identify what goes where.

I also visited George Mason and George Washington Universities and had the chance to observe how they recycle on campus and in their dorms. Both universities have community gardens and George Mason has a market day where students can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Busboys and Poets is beginning a waste cooperative with several neighboring businesses including popular U St. bar, Marvin’s, to manage waste better. Since all of the businesses have dumpsters on public space, which is illegal, they are going to put in two compactors, one for trash and one for recyclables. From what I was exposed to this summer, it seems that most of DC is going green. Howard University is taking many steps towards going green as well, with increased bins on campus and more participation in Recyclemania.

This internship allowed me to learn more about being green. Many people talk a great deal about being green, but very few can actually tell you what that means. Doing this internship has allowed me to expand my knowledge and thus offer more to the community that I want to represent. As a telecommunications management major, I feel it is essential that people of color have a voice and a representation of their interests in every medium. It’s awesome to have a presence on scripted TV shows or news broadcasts, but how does the rest of the world know that black people (particularly black students) actually recycle and that we care about going green too if no one is getting this story out?

I noticed a tweet about a green internship at Howard and followed a link in the tweet to a Facebook post. Unfortunately, the deadline for submission of applications had passed. Most of us would simply lament an opportunity lost and find something else to occupy our summer. That’s what I usually do. Because I wanted this internship I decided to send an email expressing my interest and that I had just learned of it via Facebook along with my resume and a lot of hope. I got a reply that I could interview the next day if there was time. I spent that night researching what I could about the Department of Public Works and materials and resources. I went over my list of common interview questions and prepared my answers. I focused on interviewing well and knowing the employer. I spent most of the interview on my experience and how I could be an asset to the program, my strengths and what I wanted to gain by participating. My advice to anyone who wants to pursue an opportunity is to go after it aggressively even if the odds don’t seem to be in your favor. Also, know your prospective employer and the position you’re applying for very well; It is impressive and will make you stand out among applicants.

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