More than 3 months ago, I filled my car to the brim and drove halfway across the country to Washington D.C. to make a difference in the lives of children. Having experienced incredible educational opportunities in my life, I have always been passionate about the using the power of education to empower individuals and support communities. Of the nearly 48,000 students in Washington D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), 84% are minority students and 76% qualify for free or reduced lunch. While the district has made enormous strides over the past few years, their proficiency scores in math and reading remain around 50% and our graduation rate is only 58%.

Working through the Urban Education Leaders Internship Program (UELIP), I spent countless hours serving the principals, teachers, and the students of Washington D.C. through a number of different avenues. Just like any internship, I gained an enormous amount of experience and was able to contribute my skills to moving forward the mission of DC Public Schools. If I was to describe my internship to you, it might sound something like this:

As an intern with DCPS, I supported the Principal Recruitment & Selection Team, working to identify, recruit, interview, and place principals and assistant principals in all of our schools. In addition to supporting the overall operations and logistics of my team, I spearheaded our efforts to identify highly effective school leaders from around the country, and to improve the content of our recruiting website. I gained experience in urban education policy, executive recruiting, internet research, and human resources. My work environment was positive and supportive throughout my experience.

However, this description is incomplete. While describing what I did, I didn’t tell you about the real impact that my work had upon myself and other people this semester, or about how I truly viewed my work. Here’s how I would actually describe my experience with DCPS:

As an intern with DCPS, I recruited highly effective leaders who care about closing the achievement gap and giving our students a world-class education. Knowing that principals are vital to maintaining quality teachers and creating a positive school culture, I supported our rigorous 5-step interview process to ensure we hire the absolute best people. I gained experience in supporting a diverse population of students, engaging with caring and motivated leaders, and critically thinking to solve issues related to education. My work environment consisted of passionate and mission-driven people who want to use education to make the world just a little bit easier and better for students and their families. I constantly felt supported, engaged, and challenged.

For so many reasons, we constantly feel compelled to only give answers like my first example. However, in expressing how our experiences affected ourselves and the other people in the system, we make our experiences impactful, bring them to life, and reveal the true power of our work. Thank you to everyone in DCPS for giving me an experience worth sharing with the world. I hope that I was able to contribute as much as I gained from this incredible opportunity.

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Originally published at evanltraylor.wordpress.com on May 4, 2015.

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