Creativity for COVID: Saving Summer Internships

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

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. 

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  brand awareness and messaging for teenagers to increase engagement and use of our mental health resources?

→ How might we [facilities department] redesign the traditional classroom to better enhance some of the positive attributes of a more digitally-focused world, and what potential obstacles might we face along the path?

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?

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