A ‘front and center’ student veteran lands prestigious D.C. internship

MCC student Yara Morgan was awarded a summer internship with the Veterans Employment Trajectory Initiative. (Photo by Chris Meggs/MCC)

When it comes to serving her country and community, few do it with more passion than Metropolitan Community College’s Yara Morgan.

Now the MCC-Penn Valley student is being rewarded for it.

Morgan has won a prestigious summer internship with the Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) Initiative in Washington, D.C., which helps veterans face the challenges of returning to the civilian workforce. She’s the first MCC student to receive the honor.

Morgan served in the U.S. Navy for four  years and the Kansas Army National Guard for another six.  Morgan is also the mother of two grown daughters whom she still tries to inspire.

“I’d like to set an example that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and better yourself,” she says.

Mike Duerr, program manager with VET Initiative, says that attitude made Morgan stand out during the application process: “Her drive, strong academic performance and passion for occupational therapy made her an easy applicant to accept into the VET Initiative.”

Morgan greets fellow veteran and MCC student Timothy LaBlance.

Morgan is pursuing a degree in occupational therapy. She expects to graduate in May 2020.

At MCC-Penn Valley she is active in the Student Veterans Association and is the organization’s secretary. Morgan is also a work-study student who manages the veterans lounge in Penn Valley’s Campus Center.

Morgan says she learned about the internship while attending a Student Veterans of America conference earlier this year.

There’s a lot of competition for the internships. Morgan says she had to write an essay, get a recommendation from an instructor or program director and then complete an interview.

“It’s an honor to be chosen,” she says. “They only accept 25 applicants” for the program, which is offered each summer.

Linda Lechowicz, co-advisor for the Student Veterans Association at Penn Valley, says no one deserves the honor more.

Morgan not only manages the veterans lounge but “she also assists vets. She lets me know if a veteran needs anything.”

Morgan is “a natural leader,” Lechowicz adds. “She doesn’t fall into the background. She’s front and center. When she sees a need, she goes after it.”

Her internship will be related to what she’s studying at MCC. She will be interviewing with three organizations during the next few weeks. The VET Initiative says it partners with more than 500 public, private and nonprofit organizations in the greater D.C. area.

“Gaining hands-on experience in your field in a professional setting, as well as learning to become a better leader, is always valuable,” Morgan says.

Morgan accepts the first Reggie Helms Memorial Scholarship at Chancellor Kimberly Beatty’s inauguration.

Along with experience, the internship will also provide housing and $2,000 toward food and living expenses.

D.C.-based student internship program the Washington Center, in partnership with Prudential Financial, developed the VET Initiative “to help translate the extensive skills” service members learn in the military and in college into a successful career.

The 10-week program matches veterans with an internship. They work full time Monday through Thursday. Each Friday will be spent focused on resume, personal brand, job interviewing, networking and job search skills.

This is just the latest accomplishment for Morgan. She was the first recipient of the Reggie Helms Memorial Scholarship at MCC, which honors Chancellor Dr. Kimberly Beatty’s father. Morgan was awarded the $2,500 scholarship at Dr. Beatty’s inauguration last year. You can read more about it here.

Those who know Morgan say the sky is the limit for her.

“She’s active, motivated and determined,” Lechowicz says. “She never says no and gives 100 percent.”