Aaliyah Melton, 20, joined On-Ramps to Careers’ Tech-Reconnect program in April 2017 because she was curious about information technology careers. However, she didn’t have much information about the variety of careers available or her interests in the field. Little did she know that in six months she would proudly call herself a “Web Developer” and be telling more students about the great opportunities in tech careers.
“No one in my family even knew what a web developer was, much less how to help me study for this career,” Aaliyah told interviewers from her home in Ward 6. So she was intrigued and a little intimidated to learn about the 10-week intensive courses available to her through On-Ramps to Careers and funded by DOES’ Office of Youth Programs. But by then Aaliyah was determined to pursue a technology career and knew On-Ramps to Careers could help her do just that.
Aaliyah had been working part time in employee training at Sweetgreen restaurant until she joined On-Ramps, and as an administrative and program assistant at various community organizations since graduating from Thurgood Marshall High School in DC. She had to overcome several barriers to employment, including basic skills deficits in English and Math in order to get into the Web Development Immersive program at General Assembly, So On-Ramps provided a tutor over the summer to raise her reading and math levels to prepare for the intensive course starting in August.
Aaliyah also did not have funds to buy the high functioning computer required for the course. On-Ramps assisted her by lending a high-powered MacBook Air to use during the course and by helping her to complete paperwork for a General Assembly scholarship to join the course. During the course, when the rapid pace of software learning seemed overwhelming, On-Ramps also stepped in to provide a computer science programming tutor from the University of Maryland College Park. With grit, determination and some help of her programming tutor, Aaliyah became On-Ramps and DOES’ first person to complete the demanding General Assembly Web Immersive course.
Through the General Assembly course, Aaliyah learned multiple software development languages, including: HTML5, CSSs, Ruby on Rails, React, Angular2 and Python – skills she had never heard of prior, but which are very much in demand in the DMV region. Soon after her program graduation, On-Ramps and DOES introduced Aaliyah to Simple Technology Solutions, a DC-based technology firm that was also participating in DOES’ new IT Apprenticeship program. Aaliyah is now working as an IT Career Apprentice at Simple Technologies and earning $12.50 per hour while she develops Amazon Web Services and other software skills, which will further increase her knowledge and her skills that are in high demand in the region.
Andrew Addison began his senior year at Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington DC with a desire to pursue a career in information technology (IT). Although he was very involved in school activities like chess, baseball and track, he found it difficult to find a program that supported his IT interests and career goals. So he was not sure how to pursue these after graduation.
As a child, Andrew learned that making connections with people could introduce a whole new world of opportunities. So he was excited when Mr. Baker, a career coordinator at Ballou, told him about On-Ramps to Careers’ partnership with DC Public Schools. Mr. Baker was aware of Andrew’s interest in technology and helped him enroll in the On-Ramps FasTrack Program.
“Through On-Ramps, I learned the importance of participating in technology internships. I know they give me experience for the career I want to pursue,” said Andrew. “The On-Ramps FasTrack program also taught me how to build a resume, conduct a successful interview, and even build soft skills like time management.” Through the FasTrack program, Andrew began taking classes after school that focused on IT and employability skills training. In the spring, On-Ramps placed Andrew in an internship at the technology firm YourWay IT Solutions. His classes coupled with his internship afforded him the opportunity to use his new skills and growing interests in IT, which further increased his motivation.
“Receiving the On-Ramps to Careers A+ Certification Training has been a valuable experience for me and being in the program and earning money through On-Ramps’ partnership with the Department of Employment Services has been a great experience. It also helped me to secure a scholarship to the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and hopefully a successful future in the IT Industry.”
“When it looked like I might not receive a scholarship I’d earned, On Ramps also assisted me in getting it sorted out in time for me to attend UDC this fall. Whenever I thought about higher education, I realized I never wanted to have student loans. Yet, I still wanted to pursue my education,” said Andrew.
In August 2018, Andrew began his college career at the University of the District of Columbia, majoring in Computer Science.