“My summer internship through the LIFT program was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life”, said Kamille Grace Willis, a recent master’s graduate from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “Under the leadership of the dynamic LIFT team, Ms. Shenika Sebastien, Dr. Kevin Dixon, and Ms. Trevia Farrell, our cohort had the opportunity to participate in an excellent networking session with Ms. Shayla Solomon, which foreshadowed the most integral part of my internship.”
The Department of Labor’s 2022 Labor Investing For Tomorrow program provides college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates the opportunity to work within the U.S. Virgin Islands in an industry that speaks to their desired interests. This program was established in 1989 and provided students the opportunity to participate in workshops and community service events. The LIFT program also affords students the opportunity to partake in community outreach activities and masterclass sessions with experts in the fields of networking, branding, and skill development.
Willis had the opportunity to participate in the LIFT program for two years. “My first internship in 2019 was more of a crash course on the current state of the healthcare system within the territory,” she said. “I was placed with the Department of Health under the Behavioral Health Division for this internship. That particular experience sparked my passion for working in the public health sector.”
This summer, Willis had the opportunity to intern at the Office of the Governor on St. Thomas through the Office of Health Information Technology under the direction of Michelle Francis. Her second internship consisted of applying the skills and practices that she learned within her graduate program and provided her with an extremely different perspective, she said.
“I had direct access to interact with leaders within our governmental agencies, as well as key stakeholders of companies such as Microsoft, Public Consulting Group, and Google to execute a digital health summit that took place on July 26th and 27th within the territory,” she said.
Willis most impactful memory of this internship was interacting with everyone throughout the eight-week program. “I believe that you can learn substantial life and professional skills as you encounter others. Everything matters — the ‘good mornings,’ the way I made someone feel, the laughs, and the headaches were all a part of my story. Honing soft skills such as empathy, timeliness, and optimism in a career is extremely pertinent to maintaining a successful career,” she said.
The LIFT program helped her learn about herself, she said. She feels she embraced the importance of remaining resilient and having integrity in every task that she completed. Francis, her boss and now mentor, assured her of her abilities and expressed the importance of remaining steadfast towards her goals through faith. One of the key takeaways she learned is that having a supportive team is highly important and necessary to be successful. “If you don’t have that support, you must be introspective with yourself to get the job done,” Willis said.
The LIFT program has helped Willis foster meaningful relationships as she continues to progress in her career. Francis was highly instrumental in cultivating the way Willis will approach her future career as a healthcare management consultant with Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler.
“The LIFT program not only has provided me with the opportunity to work, but the opportunity to work within the place I consider the best place in the world despite the complexities that we may face as a territory. The LIFT program has inspired me to return home, and has provided others with the opportunity to work within our territory once they have completed the program,” said Willis.
“I would advise anyone that is interested in the LIFT program to apply. I would also advise anyone who knows someone that can benefit from this prestigious program to encourage them to apply. Do your research about the program, its requirements and deadlines, write down a few places that you envision yourself working within the territory, and apply as the LIFT program is a year-round opportunity through the Virgin Islands Department of Labor,” said Willis.
“For anyone interested in pursuing the same career as myself, the simplest advice I can give you is to pursue work opportunities that align you with the healthcare sector,” she said.
Willis has worked in many different facets of healthcare, from a laboratory assistant at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas to a graduate research assistant at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, to even interning with the Food and Drug Administration in Jefferson, Arkansas.
“Various experiences allow you to make a sound and clear decision that you envision for yourself. Don’t limit yourself,” she said.