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Gingerbread-making AEF Experience

Invest in the next generation of travelers and hospitality professionals.

The American Experience Foundation (AEF) enriches the lives of students through inspirational experiences and educational opportunities to cultivate the next generation of hospitality industry leaders. AEF invests in young people, connecting them with the travel and tourism professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives to help ensure they can enter college and career with confidence.

  • INSPIRE - Free field trips to our nation’s capital for students from DC and across the country
  • TRAIN - Internships and educational opportunities to connect students with hospitality industry professionals
  • EDUCATE - Scholarships to qualified students and alumni from DC’s ten high school Academies of Hospitality & Tourism, Culinary Arts, and Mass Media

AEF is the official non-profit affiliate of Destination DC (DDC), the destination marketing organization for our nation’s capital. By leveraging the resources and networks of DDC and its 1,000 member businesses, AEF is uniquely positioned to open doors for students, filling a need for career exposure and paths to success.

Dijon July 4th
AEF Concord Share

Kelly Cantarero-Flores, AEF Intern Summer 2020 & 2021, Wilson High School Class of 2022

"I will be forever thankful to have the AEF team as mentors and for all the valuable things I have learned from and through this internship. I feel more confident in my abilities and skill sets to enter the workforce."

Learn More About AEF

2023 Annual Review

2022 Annual Review

2021 Annual Review

2020 Annual Review

2019 Annual Review

2018 Annual Review

AEF Staff

Brittany Anderson

Brittany Anderson

Program Manager


Email Brittany


Claire Carlin Headshot

Claire Carlin

Executive Director, American Experience Foundation

Senior VP, Partnerships & Alliances, Destination DC


Email Claire


Christen Miller

Christen Miller

Partnership Manager


Email Christen


Haleluya Demeke Headshot

​​​​​Haleluya Demeke

Partnership Manager


Email Haleluya

Charlie Ross Headshot

Charlie Ross



Email Charlie


Lisa Waldschmitt

Associate Director


Email Lisa


AEF Interns

John "JT" Thompson, a young Black man, stands in front of brick background. He is wearing a navy blazer with the crest of Ballou's Academy of Hospitality and Tourism.

John "JT" Thompson

Senior, Ballou High School

Melany Mendez Casas, a young Latina woman, stands in front of a brick wall. She wears glasses and a black polo shirt.

Melany Mendez-Casas

Senior, Coolidge High School

Nalisa Jacobs, a young Black woman, stands in front of a brick background. She is wearing thick rimmed glasses, a white blouse, and a sweater vest.

Nalisa Jacobs

Senior, Ballou High School




Mailing Address


American Experience Foundation

901 7th Street NW

Fourth Floor

Washington, DC 20001


AEF Board of Directors


Michael Akin
President, LINK Strategic Partners


Vice Chair
Greg Casten
Co-Chair, President, Oceanpro Industries


Gail Smith-Howard
General Manager [Retired], Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill


Stacy Eacho Smith

General Manager, Hyatt Place DC/White House

At-Large Members


Michael Borris
Director of Global Accounts, Encore


Skye Curry
Manager, Global Quality, Marriott International


Elliott L. Ferguson, II
President & CEO, Destination DC


David Grosso

Partner, ArentFox, Shiff, LLP 


Bill Heater

Vice President & General Manager, Big Bus Washington DC


Abby Himmelrich
Teacher, McLean School


Eric Kincaid
Vice President of Sales, Choose Chicago


Tanisha Lewis

Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority


Destiny Kibalama

Director of Recruiting & Human Resources, Clyde's Restaurant Group


Elif Sen,
General Manager, Cambria Hotel Washington D.C. Navy Yard Riverfront


Rauf Shakir
Chief Executive Officer, USA Guided Tours


John Snedden

Owner, Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company


Charles Williams II

OTA Specialist


Alex Wilson 
Director [Retired], Jackson- Reed High School Academy of Hospitality and Tourism

AEF Student Advisory Board



Zoe Roberts
George Mason University Class of 2022


Lauren Brown
Howard University Class of 2022


Kwame Brown

Full Sail University  Class of 2023


D'mani Harrison-Porter

Morehouse College Class of 2019


Diamond Hunter

Temple University Class of 2022


Cayla Lewis

Columbia Heights Educational Campus Class of 2019


Tadjanique Phillips

Columbia Heights Educational Campus Class of 2019


JP Roberts
Eastern Connecticut State University Class of 2026


Anura Sharma
Georgetown University Class of 2026



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