Jade Igwebe - Restaurant Manager and Server
Jade Igwebe - Restaurant Manager and Server

When you come to work here, it’s not that you’re just serving or managing. A lot of different things are connected with this company, like treating everyone equally, with respect and love. A lot of our managers and people really high up in the company started as dishwashers and bussers. So it gives people hope when they come and work here.

One thing people don’t realize about our industry is that a lot of the servers—even me, when I was a full-time server—don’t make an actual hourly wage. We’re actually getting about $3 an hour.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Jessica Hawkins - Police Sergeant
Jessica Hawkins - Police Sergeant

One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King is, “Make a career of humanity, try and make yourself a better person, and make the world a better place.” I like protecting people, but more so, their rights. I’m passionate about people’s civil rights and just treating people right—regardless of who they are, or what they do, or how they identify, or what color they are, what religion they believe in. How scary is that for people living in some states that they could wake up and be fired just because their boss found out that they might be gay, or because they present as female because their true gender identity is female?

Being a part of a minority group now, being transgender, and being a transgender female police officer, you really see another side of people that you’ve never seen before. I really like my job and I like being able to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. I do it from a law-enforcement point of view because a lot of the people in the LGBT community are scared of the police. I feel that when people in the LGBT community meet me, a transgender police officer, it gives them a sense of hope, a sense of, “I can be me” and be a productive member of society.

Photographed in DuPont Circle - Washington, DC

Hassan Ali - Staff Assistant for Rep. Keith Ellison
Hassan Ali - Staff Assistant for Rep. Keith Ellison

I’m originally from Djibouti, East Africa. I’ve lived in the States about 18 years and I came here as a refugee. I think a lot of people who go into politics or public service go into it with a passion and a drive and want to change or better the system. When Congress has a 6 to 7 percent approval rating, it’s hard to see the human component of it. I see every day the type of work we actually do. 

I really appreciate that Keith is the first Muslim in Congress. One thing we see in this office is that all of the issues when it comes to Muslims are framed through the premise that these are average Americans who care about average issues, and it’s not just a Muslim issue. In this building and in Congress as a whole, when we talk about Muslims, it’s always through the context of foreign policy. It’s never just, “Muslims want to go to well-funded schools,” or “Muslims care about the economy.”

My job is a gateway for people who in the future want to make an impact on this government and system that we have. In our line of work, a small victory is a huge deal, especially when you’re in the minority.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Matt Wuerker - Editorial Cartoonist
Matt Wuerker - Editorial Cartoonist

I come from a proud American tradition of political satirists—people who used cartoon images to rabble-rouse and make political points. I think the world needs to lighten up about politics a little bit. Political cartooning can bring humor, and some visual wit, to a conversation and maybe turn down the temperature. It’s an old cliché to talk about bringing more light than heat to the political conversation, but ideally that’s what a good cartoon does. It breaks down barriers with humor and hopefully opens people’s eyes to a point of view that maybe they would block out otherwise.

Photographed in Arlington, VA

Alex Restaino - Farmer
Alex Restaino - Farmer

What I get from this job is a sense of balance in my life—being out in nature every day, getting to appreciate the world around me, and having a hand in contributing to nature. Being an organic farmer, we try to keep everything in check, keep everything in balance, and be aware of taking from the Earth, and then giving back to the Earth. We’re trying to get back to how things used to be but also be efficient and sustainable.

Photographed in Ashburn, VA

Lidia Núñez - Hotel Housekeeper
Lidia Núñez - Hotel Housekeeper

My thoughts: Lidia didn't speak very much english, but was such a gripping subject when I first saw her I reached out to hotel management to see if they could help me out. After the initial skepticism (used to that by now being who I am and looking how I look), Lidia and her manager were on board and excited to take part in the project. 

Her eyes and hands tell such a rich story; we actually just sat and looked at each other for a little bit at first, getting comfortable and exchanging our energy. This was one of my favorite sessions because I felt her. There was a pureness and genuine attentiveness she exuded that has stayed with me ever since.

Photographed in Laurel, MD

Charles Segars - Letter Carrier
Charles Segars - Letter Carrier

I meet new people all of the time doing this job. People don’t really go to the store as much as they used to. They order a lot of things online and we deliver it. It’s kind of changed with technology—customers will know when packages are delivered to their door in real-time. People look forward to seeing me coming. I just provide a service to the public.

Photographed in Alexandria, VA

Roberto Rodas - Wastewater Treatment Operator
Roberto Rodas - Wastewater Treatment Operator

Every day here is something new. There are days where you’re not doing anything, but there are days where you walk in at 6 a.m. and you’re busy all the way to 6:30 p.m. A lot of people have misconceptions about what we do. There’s a lot of science to it. And once you start working here, you begin to understand it. Give us some respect for what we do. Give a little more credit to the guys here: 24 hours a day, this plant is running.

Photographed in Arlington, VA

Stanislaus Akisah - Nurse
Stanislaus Akisah - Nurse

When I was growing up in Cameroon, my father had a small pharmacy. Seeing him selling medications, operating on people’s bones or abscesses gave me a passion for health care at a very early age.

I enjoy every single day of taking care of my patients. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a millionaire, billionaire, a poor person, or the president of the United States, if you’re not healthy, you can’t do anything. Without health, there’s an absence of life. That’s why every day that I’m able to help somebody get better and extend their life by just one second, that is irreplaceable.

Photographed in Silver Spring, MD

Debra Page - Special Education Paraprofessional
Debra Page - Special Education Paraprofessional

I feel like every day I walk in this building, the students can learn something. I say to the students that every day is a great day of learning. But when it comes time to work, we work. If I can keep a smile on my face, it’s not only for the kids, it’s for the staff as well. I think they should all have a positive environment and a positive attitude.

Every student’s needs are different. What I might do for a student who can’t speak is different than how I would talk to a student who has a problem with their behavior. Every student has needs, and I want to meet the needs of these students to help educate them and help them learn. I want them to learn.

Photographed in Alexandria, VA

Ana Bonilla -School Social Worker
Ana Bonilla -School Social Worker

Standing outside the school in the morning and saying good morning to every child does so much good. Every time I see a parent that stays back, I approach them and say good morning, and I invite them in too. And the next time, I don’t have to walk to them—they’re going to come because now it’s their school, it’s their turf. 

The world is changing, families are changing, and our school system has to change. I’m lucky to work in a system where every single school has a school social worker who is bridging the gap by doing early intervention.

Photographed in Alexandria, VA

Marakie Getachew - Web Developer
Marakie Getachew - Web Developer

As a developer, I could work anywhere. But I choose to work in the labor movement because I believe in it. Everybody understands why programmers exist or why they’re useful. But for me, it’s the union that makes the difference. We need unions because they raise all working people. They set a living standard. They fight for the rights of people who are even outside the union, like a 40-hour workweek. My job is to empower the people actually doing union organizing, to give them the best tools possible so they can serve their communities better.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Tunisia McCoy - Retail Sales Worker
Tunisia McCoy - Retail Sales Worker

My job is important because I make sure everybody is happy. I make sure their needs are met, whether it be within my staff, with regular customers, or tourists. Life is all about happiness, it’s all about comfort. To put on a pair of denim that you take care of, it allows you to be yourself in almost any situation or any circumstance. Once you’re comfortable, you’re able to do whatever you need to do. You look good, you feel good, so it just keeps you going.

Photographed in DuPont Circle - Washington, DC

Shing-Lu Yue - Engineer
Shing-Lu Yue - Engineer

This facility just looks like a building from the outside, but we operate 24/7. We’re always going, and we’re always making something. I think one of the coolest things about being a high-tech company is that the products we make go into the servers and enterprise data solutions that allow us to store and access our online data, like social media posts and videos. Plus, anyone who has a mobile device, there’s a good chance you’re using our memory.

Photographed in Manassas, VA

Orlando Rickman - Food Service Worker
Orlando Rickman - Food Service Worker

I like the fact that we’re downtown, so it’s a myriad of people that come in, and from different walks of life. I’m able to be here and say, “Hello, how are you doing?” People have to eat every day and if you can make them happy, why not? I like to talk, I like to engage, I like to meet new people. I like to say hello and good morning. Normally that’s a Down South thing, but we’re in the nation’s capital and it’s a political city. So someone always has something to say.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Tami Hatch - Interior Designer
Tami Hatch - Interior Designer

I like to do work that means something to people. A lot of my clients have built their own business and they’ve worked to a point where they’re building a home for themselves and their families for future generations. It’s not just that it’s pretty, but that it’s done well, that it draws from them and represents who they are in the space they live or work in.

Photographed in Alexandria, VA

Gevalle “Gigi” Gaither - Security Officer
Gevalle “Gigi” Gaither - Security Officer

My job matters because I give it a thousand percent. I don’t leave any stone unturned. I want everyone to feel at home—even when they’re coming in the first time for an interview. I find out who they’re interviewing with and let them know to take a deep breath, and I give them a little feedback on that person, so that they can just go on and really be who they are—and let that light shine for them. This is beyond customer service for me. This is my family, my extended family. So I make everybody comfortable. I don’t want anyone to leave my desk without a smile on their face.

Photographed in Downtown Washington, DC

Rachel Rapport - Librarian
Rachel Rapport - Librarian

I started in public libraries just out of college. I took a break when my son was born and worked for a private library-software company, but I didn’t feel like I was contributing to the community. Libraries are the community. This is where people, regardless of their means, come to see each other, to meet, to learn skills, to develop themselves, and find themselves. Librarians are sort of facilitators in that role. Every day I work here, I know that I’m helping someone and I know that we make an impact on people’s lives.

Photographed in Silver Spring, MD

Arly Reyes - Child Care Worker
Arly Reyes - Child Care Worker

There’s nothing more important to me than working with children. I enjoy everything that children do—they make me happy. Daycare is as important as high school and college—it is that first step. You cannot go to college if you did not go to first and second grade. Daycare is the foundation.

Photographed in Takoma Park, MD

Maia Dargan - Pre-K Teacher
Maia Dargan - Pre-K Teacher

I’m helping the next generation to be a little bit better, and that’s the core of what my family believes—that every generation should succeed and be better than the previous. I hope that the foundations that we’re building in pre-K will last, with the children inspired to be lifelong learners. We need to read and to be literate in order to function in any facet of our lives.

Photographed in Adams Morgan - Washington, DC

Moses Kilwake - Electrician
Moses Kilwake - Electrician

This job is what I’ve been doing all my life, and this is what supports my family. Without an electrician, nothing can ever move.

Photographed in Downtown Washington, DC

Erin Thorp - IT and Business Operations Specialist
Erin Thorp - IT and Business Operations Specialist

I really love what I do. Every day someone comes to me with a problem that I’ve never seen before and I have to figure out how to fix it. Seeing people able to do their jobs faster and better because of the contributions that I’ve made, I find that really satisfying. 

Even if you have great ideas, you need someone with the ability to deal with the practical issues like making sure the lights stay on, the rent is paid, the computers are running. You need that person who’s there to keep everything tied together—and that’s what I do.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Amy Kossoff - Doctor
Amy Kossoff - Doctor

I see a mostly homeless population of patients in shelters and places that serve the homeless. I meet amazing people, who have had many struggles in their lives, yet I learn an immense amount from them. They are so often resilient, strong, and just provide me with incredible job satisfaction. 

I provide health care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have it, and sometimes it’s more important to listen and hear people’s stories who are rarely heard, and people who rarely get to tell their stories. I wish the world was more interested in their stories.

Photographed in Georgetown - Washington, DC

Kevin Henry - Bus Operator
Kevin Henry - Bus Operator

This job provides meaningful, satisfying work, with a salary and benefits package that allow me to take care of myself and my family. I’m able to contribute to the economy by paying taxes and making everyday purchases that provide job opportunities for others. I’m also able to meet many interesting people, whose stories and experiences contribute to my life. 

Public transit provides communities with economic opportunities by transporting large numbers of people, it provides the elderly and the physically and economically disadvantaged with a convenient, inexpensive way to move from their homes to school, to stores, and to access other services. And the public transit system employs thousands of people in the D.C. metro area alone. Most of these people, like myself, do not have advanced education. If such a large number of jobs paying livable wages were eliminated, it would be devastating to our communities.

Photographed in Washington, DC

Ana Bonilla -School Social Worker
Ana Bonilla -School Social Worker

A school social worker is a bridge between the school, the community, and the families. My job is to make sure that every child who comes here gets a fair chance. If a child needs emotional support, or has basic needs like food, clothing, a coat, I’m the one who makes sure that gap is no longer there so the students are available for learning. We need school social workers in our schools, because our families and communities have changed. We’re not in the ‘60s anymore. We’re not mommy staying home and daddy going to work and grandma lives across the street. 

I’m very enthusiastic about my job and I come to work every day happy because I have a chance to be a part of change. Growing up, I always wanted to have someone who was a role model and someone I could identify with—someone who believes that you have a talent no matter what that is, and that you are going to become a successful human being in society.

Photographed in Alexandria, VA

Gil Nissley - Bicycle Mechanic
Gil Nissley - Bicycle Mechanic

I get satisfaction from working with people and fixing their problems. They bring their bikes to us and this is their transportation—this is how they get back and forth to work, school, and appointments. People are getting away from cars and going to alternative methods of transportation; bicycles are having a big resurgence. You need a qualified bike mechanic to make sure that people are safe, that the bikes they have operate properly, and are safe to ride in traffic. It’s important to have a mechanic who knows what they’re doing.

Photographed in Adams Morgan - Washington, DC