Addison Villanueva

Addison Villanueva had a way of standing out in her internship class. 20+ students from Portsmouth and Norfolk were already setting an example this past summer just by being present and accounted for—all day, and all week in early June. These youth had applied for, and been accepted to, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council’s Summer Youth Internship Program that would enable them to gain paid work experience and training over the summer. No matter which way you sliced it, these students were all incredibly motivated individuals. Which is why it’s saying so much that Addison (Addie,) made such an impression during my lessons.

A student in Norfolk Public Schools, Addie showed up for our Smart Transitions Life Work Portfolio Course ready to work and learn. One thing that stood out about Addison is how dedicated she was to the idea of a future career that would be meaningful and beneficial to society—she needed to know that her chosen path would somehow better the world. Not only that, although she was already working one part-time job at a local restaurant, and she was about to embark on a summer internship; she still had time to ask me if I had any connections at local companies like Trader Joe’s that were known for being good to employees and giving back to the community. In our classes, we work to ensure that what a young person chooses as a career path aligns with the things they love to do and the gifts and skills they have to offer. We also help them clarify their values—what they care about in the world. We always ask students what impact they want to have in the world, but I’m not used to seeing students so actively seeking to make their mark.

Since wrapping up the summer program in June, I have had the pleasure of hearing from Addie a few times and it never surprises me when I hear one great news piece upon another. A group called “The Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization” has reached out to me on behalf of Addie because even though they are based in Denver, she’s been working to get them out here and they are looking for mentors. Something tells me that this young lady is doing much more on her phone than just endlessly gazing at Instagram—she’s in search of something better and it’s going to be good for all of us. Just the other day she emailed to tell me that she had hosted her own workshop on Awareness, and again, I’m no longer surprised, just excited to hear what’s next for this incredible young woman.

—Harvest Bellante, Program Director