Archive for July, 2009

At the Midway Point!

DCRA summer youth are gaining a wide variety of skills.

DCRA summer youth are gaining a wide variety of skills.

The summer youth at DCRA have been enjoying a program and environment that have been very beneficial to the participants. We are now at the halfway point, and many of the youth have developed professional and productive skills that will help them in many of their future career aspirations. Although there are still a few more weeks left to learn something new in the program, many youth feel that they can take the skills that they have learned so far and apply them to their other fields of interest.

Summer youth Lawrence Cross told me that his time here has taught him the importance of being a professional and the benefits that it can bring to him. So far, one of the biggest highlights of the summer program has been the weekly professional development sessions.  I talked to some of the youth to see what they thought about the professional development sessions. They stated that they thought the career fashion show and last week’s sessions with professionals from the law enforcement industry were two of the top so far.

As for filling the expectations of the program, many feel that DCRA has been able to do so, in terms of providing a professional workplace where youth can see, first-hand, the workings of D.C. government.  Some youth did complain of having non-challenging and mundane tasks, but still said that as a whole they are enjoying the program. They also talked of how in the up-coming weeks they expect much of the same that they got in the first of half of the program. With the eventual goal of everyone in the program leaving with a resume, it seems that each youth will be able to add significant substance from their time here at DCRA.

–Willis Bradwell

The Process of Applying to College

You can get free printed catalogs from most colleges and universities simply by requesting them at the school's website or by calling the admissions office.

You can get free printed catalogs from most colleges and universities simply by requesting them at the school's website or by calling the admissions office.

The process of applying to college is one that can be both exciting and nerve-racking. For those who may be starting this process in the fall or some time in the near future, here are a few tips to try and make the process run a little more smoothly. The first thing you should do before you apply to college is have an idea of what you might want to study. This will help you in determining what types of schools you should look at. For example, if you have an interest in studying business, look for schools with a strong business program. You should then compile a list of maybe 10-15 schools that you like. Next, you should research the schools you have an interest in, and see what types of programs and opportunities that they can provide to you. Once you have completed your research on these schools, it should help you to begin to narrow down the list of schools you may want to attend.

If possible, it is best to try and visit any school before you apply. Visiting a school gives you a real first hand experience of what the school and its environment are really like. Although it may be hard to travel to all the schools on your list, I would strongly encourage visiting a school before you apply–especially schools that you have a strong interest in attending. After researching and visiting different schools, you should have a pretty solid idea of the schools that you seriously may want to attend.

The next step in the process is the most time-consuming and possibly the most stressful, the application process. One of the most important things to remember about applying to college is that you may not get accepted to your number one choice. However, if you have done your research and fully looked into the schools you’re applying to, you will end up at a school that is a good fit for you.

The application process is not as simple as many may think it is. There are specific steps and procedures that you need to follow to ensure that your application is good and acceptable. This first thing you need to do before sending out your applications to schools is see which schools take the common application, and which schools require you to fill out their own specific application. The common application gives you list of questions to answer, in addition to two essays that you need to write. This application can be sent to all schools that accept it, and helps expedite the process so that you don’t need to fill out a separate application for each school. However, most schools do require an additional short essay along with the common application. It is important to remember that you are sending your common application to many schools, so try not to mention, or leave the name of a certain school in one of the essays.

Once you have filled out your application comes the most important step in the process, reviewing it for any possible errors. When applying to a school you have to remember that you are just one of thousands of other kids applying to that school. Sending in an application with errors or the wrong format, shows to the admissions staff that you are not serious about attending their school, and it only hurts your chances of acceptance. I personally know of a person who works in an admissions department, and he says whenever he comes across an application with errors on it, he automatically just passes over it and moves on to the next one. When you are responsible for looking over thousands of applications, you are always glad when you can just toss one to the side.

The next idea to help you in your application process is to send in all of your materials at one time. What I mean by this is, don’t send in your SAT scores, then your application, and then your high school transcript and recommendations. Most schools don’t start reviewing your application until they have all of this information anyway, so you should send in everything at once. If you do send it in different parts, it gets put to the side until the offer parts arrive, and that can only lead to them delaying their decision, or even possibly losing part of your application. The final thing you should do when applying to colleges is look for something called an application fee-waiver. Almost all schools require you to send an application fee when applying to their school. These fees can range from between $30-75, but fee waivers are usually pretty easy to obtain, just contact the school and explain your situation to them. Hopefully this article helps in your process of applying to college, and hopefully you end up at the school that is best for you.

–Willis Bradwell

Good to Great: Customer Service

A DCRA employee assists a customer in the Business License Center.

A DCRA employee assists a customer in the Business License Center.

For the past four weeks the summer youth communications team has been working very closely with customer service to create an informative PowerPoint presentation on the difference between good and outstanding customer service. The ‘Good’ section is what’s required of all government officials by the Mayor.  The ‘Outstanding’ section is comprised of ideas from the customer service and communications team. The goal of Outstanding customer service is not only to give the customer what he wants but to also make him feel comfortable enough to call back in the future.

Outstanding customer service goes further with clients because it adds personality to an already tedious process.  Most times, there is a long chain of people that the client must be transferred through just to have someone hear their problem and it helps to know that the person serving them cares.

The team recently wrapped up their PowerPoint presentation and the guide is planned to be used throughout the agency to educate future employees on the way to handle situations with customers via phone, internet and face to face interactions.

–Darion Parker

When It's More Than Cutting Grass

Summer youth James Johnson trims weeds and over-growth from the fence of District senior citizen Loretta Womack.

Summer youth James Johnson trims weeds and over-growth from the fence of District senior citizen Loretta Womack.

The DCRA summer youth employment program participants are holding positions in most of the agency’s departments.  Each of them works to complete important and worthwhile projects each day, though some require a bit more physical output than others.  The youth in the enforcement department have been especially busy this summer, working in the hot sun (with proper hydration nearby and adequate break periods), but it’s work that each of them says has been really fulfilling—beautifying the lawns of District senior citizens.

Today, Omari Al-Din and James Johnson went out to help brighten the day of some District seniors.  I caught up with them at the home of Mrs. Loretta Womack in Northeast D.C.  James was trimming the ivy and other weeds that were growing along the fence surrounding Mrs. Womack’s property.  Omari was cutting the grass.  I was drenched in sweat within minutes of getting out of the car, and they certainly were, but when I stopped them to ask what it was like doing the work, each of them smiled and started telling me how great it has been.

Omari said, “It feels really good to give back to the community. Some of them [assignments] have been fun.  Especially when a lot of us are out working on a yard.  A few of the ladies even offered us food and drinks while we were working, but we always have our own drinks.”  I was amazed at just how genuine Omari’s response seemed. Never once did he complain about how hot it was.  Instantly, I felt badly about complaining, even if only in my head, about the heat. 

Omari Al-Din gives the lawnmower chain a yank to finish cutting the grass at Mrs. Womack's.

Omari Al-Din gives the lawnmower chain a yank to finish cutting the grass at Mrs. Womack's.

I went inside to ask Mrs. Womack what she thought about what the boys were doing. She told me that she was so shocked that someone would do something that required so much effort in the hot sun; she couldn’t believe that DCRA wasn’t going to charge her.  I laughed and reassured her that we weren’t.  She says just from what she’d seen up to that moment, she’s had people who she’d paid to cut her grass who hadn’t done as good a job as Omari and James were doing.  She says she thought it was a great idea that DCRA was doing something to help them stay out of trouble.  Her husband, who passed away some years ago, used to be a D.C. police officer.

When I went back outside to speak with James, he had only just turned off the grass trimmer he was using a few minutes before.  His face was covered with sweat.  I told him that I wasn’t going to hold him up for long and I only wanted to ask him a couple of questions about his experience beautifying the properties of District senior citizens.  Just as Omari had done, he smiled and without hesitation told me that he was really enjoying the work.  “It’s been very easy for me.  Actually, kind of fun.  It’s always nice to help people.  I want to be a volunteer firefighter, so this has been a great experience,” he finished. 

Mr. William Smith, a member of DCRA’s abatement team, says working with Omari and James and the rest of the young men on the summer youth abatement crew has been like working with his own kids.  He says many of the boys didn’t even know how to cut grass before they started the program and, “now, they are all pretty good,” he smiled like a proud father. 

The District-wide summer youth employment program ends on August 21st.   

–Ms. Kemp

Spotlight on: Mr. James Gray

Over the past few weeks of the summer youth program here at DCRA,

James Gray

James Gray

members of the communications team have been going around to different departments trying to gain a full perspective on how the agencyworks. One of these trips was to the DCRA office located at 1900 Massachusetts Avenue–better known as D.C. General.

While on this visit, we learned how the inspection process works, and why it is such a vital part of not only DCRA, but the entire city as well. One of the supervisors of inspections is mister James Gray.  Mister Gray is the head supervisor of inspections and compliance for wards 5 and 6 in the District.  He overlooks a team of ten employees who are responsible for inspecting and making sure all plumbing, electricity, and construction is done properly. He has been working with DCRA for 22 years, and says that he loves his job. The biggest reward he gets from his job is knowing that his work directly benefits the community in a positive way.

One of the keys for his department’s success during his time here is good team work. He mentioned that without good team work from his employees, the process of inspecting all properties in wards 5 and 6 would be nearly impossible.

Although mister Gray already has a lot of responsibilities as a head supervisor, his job title does not end there. During the past few years mister Gray has also become a member of D.C.’s emergency response team. This means that during any terrorist attacks or natural disasters, it is mister Gray’s responsibility to help with the assistance of other emergency personnel to try and keep the city under control.

–Willis Bradwell

Spotlight On: Monae Sheffield

Monea Sheffield

Monae Sheffield

This week, I would like to shine the spotlight on summer youth worker Monae Sheffield. Monae is 15 years old and attends Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C. This upcoming school year, Monae will be entering the 10th grade. She is a very intelligent young lady who loves to read. Her favorite subjects are math and science and she has had the honor of receiving a scholarship for science and human health. Monae has also competed in and won a science fair.

Here, at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Monae is excelling in her work. She has joined the Customer Service division, and is showing exemplary behavior in every task that she has been assigned. During my interview with Monae she gave me an overview of her normal day which consists of handling correspondence calls, scanning and making copies. She expressed her excitement for the up and coming weeks because she will have the opportunity to begin scheduling inspections. Monae also spends a lot of her day with DCRA employee Nikkia Greene. She sits at the front desk of the director’s office. Monea stated that she enjoys working there and she is also aware that the opportunity is a privilege. Working at the front has given Monae the opportunity to enhance her office skills such as; operating telephones, assisting customers and scheduling meetings.

Monae would define herself as great person who enjoys a challenge. She stated that she does not mind picking up slack for her team members. She believes in working together for the betterment of her group or team members. Monae plans to go to college. She wants to attend Princeton, Harvard or Georgetown University and she wants to become a lawyer. She also wants to obtain a degree in business. One day she wants to open a homeless shelter for women and children. She enjoys working for DCRA and is well aware that the techniques and skills that she will learned this summer is to benefit her later in life. She plans on using the knowledge she gained as a tool in high school and throughout her future.

–Dajah Blackwell

Weights & Measures: Still Showing Off

Mr. Lawrence Taylor of the Weights and Measures Department tests a scale at a local hospital.

Mr. Lawrence Taylor of the Weights and Measures Department tests a scale at a local hospital.

A little over a week ago, a few of us from the communications department went to view a presentation by the youth working in the Office of Weights and Measures (OWM). The two summer youth employees that were presenting were Kenneth Allen and Duane Bumbray. They were basically trying to explain to the group what goes on in weights and measures, what weights and measures means, and the different divisions of it.

Kenneth Allen took over explaining OWM’s mission statement, what they do down on the second floor and what they do as summer youth. He was very clear and made it seem like he is really taking this job, even if for the summer only, very seriously. Duane Bumbray touched base on what it is like to conduct a gas inspection. He walked the group through the different phases/steps of the process (including safety, inspection, marketing, math, and the concluding stages), and then also explained what a truck sale inspection is like. Kenneth then wrapped the presentation up by explaining inspections of grocery stores and pre-packaged goods.

Both Kenneth and Duane explained the information thoroughly and without any help from an adult supervisor. They seemed interested in what they have done so far in the department and were willing to share it with the rest of the group. They also were open to questions (even though no one really had any J ) which also showed how they knew their information and didn’t mind sharing that knowledge. Great job guys!

–Lesley Thomas