Elijah Parks ’23

Washington Jesuit Academy, Office of Student and Alumni Success, Washington, DC

First off, I would like to thank Ms. Anne O. Burleigh and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for supporting me with this Selfie of Elijah Parks '23internship. It is a blessing and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

This summer I interned with the Washington Jesuit Academy’s (WJA) Development Team and Office of Alumni Relations. WJA is an all-boys middle school that serves low-income students from the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Each student at WJA is on a full-scholarship which can only be done through WJA’s generous donors and sponsors. Every year, each student has a special luncheon with their sponsor which allows them to form a relationship that goes above and beyond support for educational resources.

In response to the pandemic, WJA created a Crisis Relief Fund to address 
unexpected costs by providing resources for students allowing them to continue their classes remotely. Before the pandemic, WJA provided students with full uniforms, books, school supplies, and three meals a day. Once classes moved to remotely learning, WJA also equipped students with computers and Wi-Fi. I helped with fundraising efforts by creating the informational and kick-off video for our #20in20 Challenge—a challenge to raise $20,000 in 20 days. Upon the launch of the challenge, a generous donor informed us that he would contribute $10,000 if we reached our $20,000 goal. We reached our goal with two days to spare and earned the bonus donation. That experience alone was exciting. Not only was it rewarding to reach our goal, but it was inspiring to watch how people came together in support of one goal. In addition to the challenge, I also designed my own project for WJA’s scholarship fund, and created other videos that were used for promotional purposes for sponsors and potential donors. My favorite video was a virtual tour that allowed viewers to “walk the halls” of WJA while being navigated via my voiceover.

With the recent unrest in the U.S. that stems from issues of social justice and racism, the work I was doing for WJA became even more important. WJA’s student body is composed of over 80% African Americans and 100% of the students are POC. I already knew that the work we did was combating institutional racial and socioeconomic inequities in education. As people become more aware and educated on topics that surround racism, it is important that we give and create solutions. WJA is a solution and I was ecstatic to make people aware of that. This also inspired me to take more American Studies and Africana Studies courses this upcoming semester at Williams so that I can continue to educate myself, create solutions, and support existing ones.