Opening eyes and doors: RBC partners with Denver nonprofit to provide internships for at-risk youth
For Shafeeq Abdul and Efren Delarosa, Jr., this summer was filled with a lot of firsts. Their first time learning about the stock market. Their first time on a conference call.
The two 18-year-olds hadn’t even worked in an office environment before. So when it came time for them to start an internship at RBC Wealth Management’s Denver office, they weren’t sure what to expect.
“I didn’t really know what I was walking into,” Delarosa says.
Left to right: Shafeeq Abdul, West Divisional Administrative Assistant Anya Stinton, Efren Delarosa, Jr. and West Divisional Director Darryl Traweek.
Their internship is unique: Abdul and Delrosa just graduated high school in the spring. They’re younger than other RBC Wealth Management interns, most of whom are typically in college and based at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis. Abdul and Delarosa came to RBC WM-U.S. from Colorado UpLift, a Denver nonprofit that works in local schools to break generational cycles of poverty and failure among inner-city, at-risk youth.
Darryl Traweek, director of the RBC WM-U.S. West Division, serves on the board of UpLift and also as a mentor to kids participating in the program. He worked with UpLift staff to design an internship program for UpLift participants who graduate high school to better prepare them for the next chapter in their life. An internship, they thought, could provide valuable experiences and learning opportunities that at-risk, disadvantaged youth might not otherwise get.
“For a kid in an at-risk living situation, graduating high school is a huge step. But what comes next?” Traweek asks. “We wanted to break down a barrier for them and help them with that next step.”
‘A great learning experience’
Abdul and Delarosa were chosen for the first internship out of a pool of applicants from UpLift’s Advanced Leadership Capstone program, which develops UpLift participants to be leaders. For their internship, Abdul and Delarosa assisted with tasks like filing, mailings and entering data, learned about the firm and the financial services industry, and much more. They spent three weeks in the RBC WM-U.S. downtown Denver office, and another three weeks in the firm’s Denver Tech branch.
The internship offered them an opportunity they hadn’t had before, says Q Nellum, director of UpLift’s Capstone program.
The summer interns pictured with Reagan Shopp, Denver Complex Marketing Director.
“They got a great learning experience of how to be professional,” Nellum says. “They’ve learned professional etiquette, how to talk, how to look, how to carry themselves. These guys have gained an extreme level of confidence in who they are. It’s made them feel like they’re somebody.”
That’s precisely what Traweek hoped would happen when he proposed the idea for the internship to executives at both UpLift and RBC WM-U.S.
“My desire is this will be a confidence boost, so that they can actually see themselves in a professional environment like this,” Traweek says.
Abdul and Delarosa completed their internship in late July, and in the fall both will enter college. Abdul hopes to join the financial services industry after graduation, while Delarosa is planning to study criminal justice and eventually apply for jobs at the FBI. The internship has helped broaden their horizon, Delarosa thinks.
“Not only has the internship opened doors for us, but it’s also opened doors for future internship students who want to get into business as well,” he says.
“It’s just really cool, as people of color, to be able to do something like this,” Abdul adds. “It’s motivating for myself, personally. It motivates me to try and work harder to do the best I can.”