Creativity, Community Fuel Senior Externship Success

When he was 16, Conrad Suppes ’20 received $50 in bitcoin as a Christmas present. Today — thanks to Episcopal’s externship program, his ingenuity, and a helpful coronavirus-era boost from an EHS alumna — he’s creating social-media tutorials on bitcoin and other virtual currency for a large cryptocurrency exchange.

Conrad is one of the members of the Class of 2020 whose plans for the traditional May externship fell victim to the Covid-19 outbreak. With Episcopal shifting to distance learning in late March and its students scattered across the country and the globe, the School set to work finding remote opportunities for all its seniors — not an easy task when companies, businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies are scrambling to operate remotely and even making layoffs.

But staff at the School’s new McCain-Ravenel Center for Intellectual and Moral Courage mined its educational and professional networks and also made a lot of cold calls, finding a surprising outpouring of support despite the challenging economic environment. Ultimately, every senior was offered an externship, and 90 percent landed positions in their field of interest — with others choosing to pursue independent projects or to join a novel “Launch 2020” entrepreneurship course.

Stefanie Smith, a practicing lawyer who coordinates the McCain-Ravenel externship program, says that by offering to work remotely, students found a wider array of opportunities that matched their interests than if they were looking for D.C.-based, in-person assignments. When Ben and Jack Lee's in-person externships with Georgetown University's athletic department fell through, they widened their search and landed with Yahoo! Sports. “There are some great opportunities that students obtained that would not have been possible had we focused only on securing D.C.-area positions,” Smith says.

More than a dozen alumni and parents also helped students find positions. Among them: Ned Burns ’07, a senior program officer with the science and health-based nonprofit RTI International. Serving as a mentor to four students — Carson Allen, Dymin Gerow, Sunny Miller, and Haley Sabol — he has built a structured program to introduce them to global health and the scientists and other experts at RTI. He also is setting up meetings with a very intentional range of people working in medicine, from Dr. Hubie Haywood '07, his former EHS roommate who's now in residency at Duke, to an emergency preparedness official. “I want to show them that there is more to medicine and the health field than just being a doctor,” he says.

Catherine Coley ’07, the CEO of Binance.US, the American affiliate of the international cryptocurrency exchange Binance, proved a key contact for Conrad Suppes. She spoke at this fall’s EHS CONNECT, a program that brings Episcopal alumni back to campus to talk about careers. Conrad spoke to her at CONNECT, and when hunting externships, sent her a Twitter message. Her offer: Help Binance.US explain cryptocurrency to Generation Z and young millennials via social media channels like TikTok. “I had watched TikTok but I had never really made a video for it,” Conrad says. “I figured it was something I could figure out.”

He admits that his first efforts for what he has billed as Suppes Media Group were “pretty rough,” but he’s now in a groove, producing one a day for Instagram and Twitter as well as TikTok. He typically puts four hours or more into the research into each video’s topics — from the basics of blockchain and cryptocurrency to a comparison of investments by financiers Warren Buffet and Paul Tudor Jones in virtual currency.

A small number of students explored another trend of 21st century business: the explosion of start-up ventures. With leaders from humble ventures, a venture-capital firm, they studied the creative process required to take an idea to the reality of implementation. “It’s a crash course in the start up process,” says Jeremy Goldstein, McCain-Ravenel Center executive director.

Ajit Verghese and Harry Alford, co-founders of humble ventures, helped teach the course with Jeremy Goldstein and EHS teacher Matt Fitzgerald.

Other seniors securing externships include:

Sean Kim: When EHS moved to distance learning, Sean returned home to Seoul, South Korea, and assumed an externship was out of the question. But working with Smith, he secured a position with Whirlpool, where he is working with an engineer to research design flaws in consumer washing machines and help Whirlpool make better products. “As engineers, you have to understand the problems of what you’ve made and figure out solutions,” he says.

Sean thinks he will study chemical engineering in college but hasn’t yet decided. “It’s interesting to get an idea of the different specific fields within engineering,” he says.

Wardie Cammack. From her home in Nashville, Tenn., Wardie serves as one of the seven leaders of the Decameron Project, a global community of young writers designed to encourage their work and bring them together during this time of isolation. Though she says she came to EHS with little background in writing — “I had no idea how to write before freshman English” — she’s now an editor with the Daemon and head of the EHS Writing Center.

Two New York City high school juniors founded Decameron, which is inspired by “Decameron,” Giovanni Boccaccio’s novella that features 100 stories told by 10 young Italians as they confront the bubonic plague that swept through Asia and Europe during the mid-1300s. Wardie curates student work to publish on the site, particularly those that win a coveted spot as a featured article. “A lot of our featured pieces are about social issues like race or mental health, or they’re just good stories that have a message behind them or theme,” she says.

South Wallace: Taking a cue from John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” YouTube broadcast, South started a video series for the EHS community, joking that he wanted to help people “come up with new things to say to your family during quarantine.” His broadcasts have helped EHS students, parents, faculty and staff, and alumni stay connected, with interviews of teacher Mike McGowan and next year’s Head Monitor Clay Sailor ’21 as well as alumni Alex Jones ’64, a former journalist, and Dina Clay ’06, a nurse in a New York City hospital hit by Covid-19.

Tymu Chenery: Tymu, who grew up in inner city Baltimore, has joined Harlem Lacrosse, a nonprofit that provides at-risk youth academic support, mentoring, leadership training, college readiness career exploration, admissions counseling, and lacrosse instruction. Tymu, a basketball standout at EHS who will play at Quinnipiac University next year, is mentoring middle school students in Baltimore neighborhoods heading to boarding school next year.

He says he draws from his own experience coming to EHS and emphasizes the importance of time management. “I tell them there are going to be people there to support them, but it’s not like you’ve got your mom there telling you to do your work.”