By David Simpson

Jaidan Williams was thrilled in March when she landed a summer internship at NASA Langley Research Center. But the Old Dominion University student didn't stop there. She wanted to get even more out of her summer.

So she joined a regional program called Summer 757 that helps interns develop workplace skills, create community ties and experience Hampton Roads culture.

She loved it.

"Summer 757 has allowed me to connect with like-minded students who are in the same position as I am, going to school and wanting to do something great in our future," said Williams, a cybersecurity major and rising senior from Norfolk. It also helped her develop skills such as networking and resume writing, she said.

In 2019, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council identified a growing labor shortage in the region. In response, leaders created the Campus 757 division, which in turn developed the summer program.

Campus 757 teams with industry, higher education and community organizations to attract college students to the region and encourage them to stay after they graduate, Director Jaedda Hall said.

And from June to August each year, Campus 757 supports interns through Summer 757. A blend of professional development programs, business tours and social events, the gatherings are a chance for students to meet local businesspeople - and one another.

"A lot of times when you're interning you just kind of stay to yourself or stay within your company and you don't really branch out to meet other people and learn more about that area that you're interning in," Hall said.

Williams especially enjoyed the kickoff event in June, held at Apex Entertainment in Virginia Beach.

"I was able to meet students from TCC, ODU, Thomas Nelson, Regent University, students that I would probably never have met. We're still cordial to this day," Williams said. "We check up on each other to see how we're doing within our internships and also as young professionals."

Other summer get-togethers included workshops on soft skills - communication in the workplace, time management, maintaining a work/life balance - a taco night at Pelon's Baja Grill, a volunteer day at the Chesapeake Humane Society and a virtual series called Mentor Monday, during which Hall interviewed a local businessperson each week.

While taking part in Summer 757, Williams held down a demanding job at NASA Langley as an information technology intern in the Office of Audits, within the Office of the Inspector General. There, she helped wrap up a cyber investigation of an IT incident and worked on an audit of NASA's use of artificial intelligence.

With another academic year to go, Williams has compiled an impressive list of achievements. She earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in cybersecurity at Tidewater Community College. She is an ODU Cyber LeADERS Scholar and a National Science Foundation CyberCorps SFS (Scholarship for Service) Scholar. She has worked at the U.S. Coast Guard Services Command. And in May 2021, she introduced President Joe Biden when he visited TCC.

Judging by her resume, Williams is going places. But she said the Summer 757 program has made her more likely to stay in the area after she graduates.

"Being a Hampton Roads native, you think you know everything," she said with a laugh. "But the events opened my eyes to the different areas and the different companies that are here that I didn't know about or had not paid much attention to."

She fully endorses Summer 757, not only for interns from elsewhere but for locals like her.

"More students should know about it," she said.

Applications for next year's Summer 757 will be posted in January at the program's website.

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