Hi! My name is Kehinde Akande. I am a Public Ally of the Class of 2016 and my Partner Organization is project Renewal. Over the past 10 months, I have been supporting individuals residing throughout the five boroughs in NYC seeking competitive work opportunities. This includes those residing in shelters, veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals, and those affected by substance abuse. I have been affected so much by the clients I support. They endure so much, often finding themselves without a job or home, yet they are very resilient. In meeting them and assisting them, the experience has been humbling. In listening to them, figuring out where they are, helping them navigate through the Next Step program, and sharing resources and information that could help them realize their power and independence, I was forced to grow a lot as well. A major challenge that my community faces is overcoming barriers to employment. The solutions to assist them are not always straightforward due to structural inequalities, which include barriers resulting from the criminal justice system, deficiencies in hard skills, ageism that’s part of the hiring process, and challenges to communicate via phone, email, etc. One of the highlights of my service year was teaching individuals who were interested in acquiring beginner typing skills. By helping clients add to their professional tool box in various ways they obtained greater possibilities of landing employment and building towards the path of independence. From here, I am passionate about going to law school to gain the skills and abilities to further work with underserved populations facing issues such as poverty and affordable housing.