- 04 July 2013
- by Hasib Muhammad
VolunTEEN Nation has a plethora of opportunities and scholarships available to you. Through VolunTEEN Nation, I was able to learn about the American Public Transportation Youth Summit. I had a keen interest in environmentalism and youth engagement, so this opportunity seemed amazing. I applied for the program, and I got accepted! The APTA Youth Summit is an annual event bringing together 50 bright students in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the summit is to show students the variety of jobs involved in the public transportation industry.
Going into the summit, I thought that public transportation was just about bus drivers or train conductors, but there is truly so much more. A lot of it is behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed, but without these people, transit systems would not be able to run properly. On the first day of the camp, we met with the president & CEO of APTA, Michael P. Melaniphy. He was very knowledgeable and emphasized the fact that we will not know where we will end up down the line, but we should do something we enjoy anyway.
The next day, my peers and I visited the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Control Center. Hundreds of thousands of people ride the WMATA system every day, but very few understand the inner workings of such a complicated system. My favorite part of this visit was that I saw a whole range of jobs that contribute to keeping WMATA safe and efficient. There were firefighters, train operators, and policemen and policewomen working around the clock to make sure everything was running smoothly.
The following day, we went to Capitol Hill. A lot of what APTA does is lobby for better public transportation. We met with different congressional staffers, and they advised us to get started with politics early if we were interested. I never realized how many meetings that they had to go to. Furthermore, it was awesome to see that most of the staffers were very young, and even they were advising our representatives! It was definitely a testament to the power of young people.
My favorite part of the summit was towards the end. We went to an engineering consulting firm, Jacobs, and saw how engineering and public transportation worked together. Because I am interested in science, it is a great career opportunity for me. Later on, we even met the United States Secretary of Education, Ray LaHood! He definitely understood the impact young people can make on their communities, and it was wonderful to hear him address us.
The whole experience was eye-opening. I met so many great friends and people, and I did not realize I would be so interested in public transportation. I highly suggest putting yourself out there and trying new things. You will never know where it will take you until you try.