MetroSquash College Students Wrap Up Summer Internships with William Blair

Friday, August 16, 2019

MetroSquash Summer Interns (image)
From left William Blair wealth advisor Jackie Moss; interns Lili Vazquez and Grant Sillah; MetroSquash CEO David Kay; interns Michel’le Messenger and Lorraine Smith; William Blair community engagement associate Paige LaCour

Four college students with the Chicago MetroSquash youth program wrapped up their summer internships at William Blair in mid-August by sharing good insights at an employee gathering on the skills they’d learned and on the hopes that they and their fellow “GenZ” generation have for the future.

These tech savvy, multi-taskers also celebrated their experiences at the firm and with MetroSquash, a William Blair community partner. The after-school program offers training in the sport of squash as well as academic and social mentoring for underserved youth on Chicago’s South Side.

A prime force behind MetroSquash is William Blair wealth advisor Jackie Moss, a former captain of her college squash team at Princeton. She co-founded the group in 2005 and remembers the early days of MetroSquash when 5th graders played on old squash courts at the University of Chicago and walked another block for academic mentoring.

Today participants meet at a modern facility with squash courts and meeting rooms for academic coaching that MetroSquash built with the support of civic leaders in the Woodlawn neighborhood. It’s become a community hub for students and their parents, serving youth from 5th grade through college, all with a mission of inspiring and coaching students to prepare for the work force. And just last year the group established a satellite campus in Evanston.

“We really want these kids to be productive citizens and have the best opportunities for jobs,” Moss said. “But if you don’t have internships and help on how to focus when you’re in college, how are you supposed to rise to the cream of the crop? They are competing with kids who have all kinds of connections and opportunities. I can’t say enough about what a difference it makes for students having the life experience of coming into an office like William Blair, interacting with professionals. It can make a difference for the trajectory of each of the interns we hire.”

William Blair’s interns were four of 30 college students who participated in MetroSquash’s summer internship program, gaining exposure to companies across the United States—from Apple in California to ABC and CitiGroup in New York.

Gen Z has arrived

Grant Sillah, a senior majoring in business and data analytics and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent the summer with William Blair’s risk and compliance team collecting and analyzing data from an employee survey on emergency response readiness. For Sillah, MetroSquash has meant a series of firsts that also included a trip to Cartagena, Columbia, when he was in high school to teach kids how to play squash.

“I was exposed to a new sport, traveled for the first time on a plane, traveled out the country for the first time, and had an opportunity to meet and interact with different people,” Sillah said.

Michel’le Messenger, a second-year intern with William Blair who joined MetroSquash in 5th grade, worked with private wealth management’s IT team.

“In the age of technology where everything is being automated, being a part of PWM’s information technology team helped me expand my tech knowledge and how to work with the team collaboratively,” said Messenger, who heads back to Clark Atlanta University this fall as a finance major. She plans to attend law school after graduation.

Lili Vazquez, a sophomore at Connecticut College, also spent the summer brushing up on her tech skills. She worked with William Blair’s IT department to add hundreds of technical documents into a firm-wide searchable database. Vazquez, who returns to Connecticut where she plays collegiate squash, says MetroSquash has been a big part of her life.

“They pushed me to get where I am now,” she said. “They are the ones who helped me get through middle school and into high school, who encouraged me to go to a boarding school to play squash in high school in Massachusetts.”

Lorraine Smith, a senior and anthropology major from Albion College in Michigan, learned the intricacies of campus recruiting this summer and was an “all in” researcher for William Blair HR.

“I felt motivated to be involved and speak out and ask questions,” said Smith, citing the importance of experiencing a sense of community at work no matter who you are.

“Then I can see myself thrive,” she added.

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