July 23, 2021

Q&A with Urban Alliance Interns, Leslie Hernandez and Therry Buhdeng: Wrapping Up Six Months of Hands-on Learning at Metropolitan Park

In an effort to mentor and grow the next generation of construction professionals, Clark Construction has found a strong partner in Urban Alliance, a local non-profit focused on providing job skills training, mentoring, and paid internships to high school youth. Since 2007, Clark has worked alongside the organization to provide meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities for nearly 40 high school students from diverse backgrounds.

In February, the Metropolitan Park project team welcomed Leslie Hernandez and Therry Buhdeng, two high school seniors in the Urban Alliance program. As their internships come to a close, we sat down with Leslie (Wakefield High School Class of 2021) and Therry (Eastern Senior High School Class of 2021) to learn about their experience working on the Metropolitan Park project and discuss their future plans.

Leslie Hernandez (left) and Therry Buhdeng (right)

What was one of the biggest challenges during your internship? 

LH: When my internship was still virtual, I was asked to compare mechanical and architectural drawings with the main goal of detecting conflict areas where drywall was not shown in both drawings. This task was initially challenging as I was still learning how to read drawings, but the MEP team walked me through the process with so much patience, I was able to efficiently tackle this task and learn a new skillset.

TB: This was my first exposure to working and communicating in a professional setting, which required an adjustment in the beginning that was challenging. I also spent the summer studying for the casting test, an exam required before working for Pepco or any utility company. I balanced both the demands of my internship with a three-month online class and countless hours of pretesting.

What was your favorite part of your internship? 

LH: My favorite part of my summer internship has most definitely been meeting the Metropolitan Park project team and learning from them. They're all wonderful, hard-working, and committed people.

TB: The amount of learning and knowledge I’ve gained has been my favorite part.

What inspired you to consider a career in construction?

LH: I love seeing the final product of these massive structures, but I find it more fulfilling knowing how they came to existence. Also, there aren't enough women within this field of work. For me, it is extremely important to break through that barrier and inspire other young women to pursue a career within this or any other field of work that needs more female representation.

TB:  A building project requires a wide range of skills and trades – from engineers to roofers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and many more. I like the exposure and interaction with all these parts and processes – it means no day is the same. I look forwarded to learning even more so that I can specialize in a particular area one day.

What advice do you have for future Urban Alliance interns who join a similar project? 

LH: Don’t be afraid of asking questions! Asking questions will put you in a position in which the only outcome is expanding your knowledge on a certain topic.

TB: Be ready to learn and ask a lot of questions. I would also add that sharp communication skills are critical to success. Most importantly, take advantage of the opportunity to make professional connections that might help you in the future!

What are your future plans for the upcoming year and beyond? 

LH: I’m excited to start my first semester at George Mason University, where I’m pursuing a bachelor's degree in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering. After completing my first school year at GMU, I plan on applying to Clark’s Summer Associate Program!

TB: I am looking forward to starting my career at Pepco as a foreman while also attending Liberty University part-time to earn my degree in engineering technology. My goal is to become a senior process engineer sometime in the future!