Earlier this year, Angel City Football Club (ACFC) proudly announced Birdies as its exclusive sleeve patch partner and sponsor of an inaugural summer internship program. Putting 10% of the sponsorship funds toward giving back to the Los Angeles community, Birdies and ACFC launched a new educational opportunity in tandem with Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) in June 2021. Three outstanding young women were chosen to participate in salaried roles with hands-on experience working for these teamed-up brands. Additionally, they interacted with all departments and executives of both organizations including, marketing, merchandising, operations, public relations, content development, and soccer operations.
Women and girls of color have long been disadvantaged in an inequitable workforce that lacks everything from paid entry-level jobs to leadership roles. The result is a class of strong, intelligent women who struggle for viable opportunities. The ACFC and Birdies SOAR internship was born out of a commitment to provide for underrepresented and underserved groups in LA. The program’s partnership with ICEF allowed for strong curriculum development centered on research-based communication, leadership, and action approaches.
This summer’s six-week program saw three brilliant young women embrace daily professional and personal development. Each intern entered a customized track that paired their creative and academic interests with the appropriate ACFC and Birdies teams. The student-centered and student-driven program allowed each participant to craft a personal research question and define their growth areas.
Shaleena Lee recently graduated from View Park and will attend UCLA this fall on a full scholarship. She couples a strong content writing background with an academic interest in marine biology and is ready to use both to increase awareness of the need for ecosystem conservation. With her internship, she aimed to learn more about teamwork, partnership work, and new content creation techniques, including film.
Abeyah Ishmael is pursuing a degree in marketing at the University of San Francisco, where she plans to use content and design to combat social injustice. She chose to focus her internship experience on how organizations can balance profitability with sincerity and community impact while also growing her skills as a public speaker.
Kimorri Boozer is an ambitious and athletic View Park senior who balances her entrepreneurial ideas with time on the rugby pitch. Her unique ability to take others into account while remaining focused on a goal helps her be a trusted teammate on and off the field. Kimorri’s internship experience focused on growing her leadership skills in an age where women still face adversity.
These three amazing young women tackled their individual goals while also working together throughout their internship program. Their work was founded on a project-based learning model that exemplified ACFC, Birdies, and ICEF core values. Blended learning allowed for virtual and in-person collaboration where Abeyah, Shaleena, and Kimorri demonstrated their work ethic, creativity, and authenticity.
“The girls worked collaboratively throughout the entire process,” said Lisa Finegan, ICEF’s academic leadership director. “We were overwhelmingly impressed with their engagement and overall performance.”
ICEF was not the only group floored by how these inaugural interns took to their challenges. “Anyone who meets Shaleena, Abeyah, and Kimorri would be shocked to know they are high school juniors and seniors,” said Julie Uhrman. Their level of dedication, commitment, and yearning to learn would be welcome in any business and we were fortunate to partner with and learn from them during this summer. ”terns asked about sources of motivation and courage for helping communities. Renata shared, “I drive really hard because I see the opportunity. I see where I was and what I went through. Don’t think that you don’t have the power to inspire. If you inspire one person to keep going, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Invigorated by daily engagement with mentors, leaders, and peers, the interns went above and beyond their assignments and research projects. Each girl participated in day-to-day operations in their assigned teams and got unrivaled access to how both ACFC and Birdies manage their businesses. In addition, they received coaching for personal elevator pitches, resumes, and interview skills that will take them beyond their internship experience and help fuel their academic and professional success.
The internship wrapped up with a final presentation at Birdies headquarters in San Francisco. Kimorri, Shaleena, and Abeyah collaborated to present their research findings. Together, they explored how for-profit organizations can prioritize giving back and identified core tenants of authenticity, planning, and openness. By listening to the community, companies like ACFC and Birdies can align their values with community expectations and strive to make an impact.
Each young woman had an opportunity to share her reflections on the internship with ACFC and Birdies. Topics ranged from content development to brand values and social impact. Shaleena noted how deeply Angel City’s brand carries its efforts for “representing a positive change in LA” as a team through “multiple and diverse perspectives.” Abeyah reflected that when it comes to community impact, corporations must “set realistic goals and establish boundaries” even while striving for connection and advocacy. Kimorri shared how inspiring her experience was as she was “involved in paths that ensure equity, opportunity, and mentorships.” All three noted that the SOAR internship “allows for transformative experiences and full integration” to create a positive impact in their communities.
The impact of the SOAR Internship program doesn’t end with the final presentation. As Kimorri, Abeyah, and Shaleena take their next steps, ACFC and Birdies are also providing a $3,000 grant toward their ongoing academic pursuits. This cohort of exceptional young women will forever remain a part of the ACFC and Birdies families with ongoing encouragement as they continue their education and chase their dreams. Planning is also underway for 2022 internships as ACFC and Birdies affirm their commitment to sustainable programs that support underserved members of LA communities.
“We want to help other generations go after their dreams in the same way that others have for us,” said Marisa Sharkey, President & Co-Founder. With complete alignment on their mission to create unique and transformative experiences for young women struggling against inequities, the two companies are sure to carry on the program's legacy of elevating the role of women in business in ways that challenge cultural expectations.
ACFC and Birdies are inspired by these three remarkable young women and grateful to have played a part in their professional and personal journeys. Their example will undoubtedly inspire others like Shaleena, Kimorri, and Abeyah to keep pushing despite the obstacles they face and to share their authentic selves with the world.