Saving Summer Internships:
Creativity for COVID

A remote internship experience for Washington, D.C. public high school students working in teams on real-world projects to address social and policy issues impacting their city and neighborhoods since the advent of COVID-19.


The loss of in-person internships due to COVID-19 nearly meant the collapse of one of Washington D.C.’s valuable student programs. Mayor Marion Barry’s Summer Youth Employment Program connected over 10,000 local high school students to jobs and internships in 2019. In addition to providing students with valuable training and work experience, the Summer Youth Employment Program helps students open doors to future employment and create valuable networks.  

To ensure DC public school students weren’t further victimized by COVID-19, the Lab teamed with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to re-imagine what a remote summer internship could look like.

The Experience

Unlike similar programs that focus solely on  the “real-world” experience and benefits of working on employer-submitted problems, students participating in Creativity for COVID will be trained in the discipline of creative problem solving and human-centered design, key 21st century skills.

Facilitators from Design Thinking DC guide 100+ public high school students through an online course and help them apply the learning  to their teams’ challenges.  Upon successful completion of the course, students earn an industry-recognized digital badge in creative problem solving

Acting as ‘consultants’ over a 6-week period, the students work in teams to tackle big design questions like: 

How might we [health organization]  improve NCBH brand awareness and messaging for teenagers to increase engagement and use of our mental health resources?

How might we [hospitality organization] rebuild DC's hospitality and tourism industry after COVID-19, while ensuring it is an industry that is equitable for all?

How might we support high school students navigating college or workforce training after high school in light of COVID 19?

Students receive ongoing feedback from their employer, iterate on their ideas until they develop one or more solutions.  The program concludes with student teams pitching their concepts to employers. 


Destination DC is the organization charged with marketing the nation’s capital for travel and tourism. COVID-19 has significantly damaged our industry. The visitors we welcome have seen their meetings, events and plans cancelled. The businesses we support are focused on survival and recovery.

As a result, most internships and many seasonal jobs in hospitality have been cancelled. We remain committed to helping the smart, creative and enthusiastic young people here in Washington, DC. We’ll enlist our interns to imagine concrete steps towards recovery while ensuring an equitable hospitality and tourism industry.  

This virtual internship program is a bright spot during a very tough year. We know we will be inspired by what the students envision for our industry’s future.

Claire Carlin
VP Partnerships & Alliances | Destination DC
Executive Director | American Experience Foundation

Employer Partners





For more information, contact Elisabeth at