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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 low-income 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 six high school Academies of Hospitality & Tourism and Academies of Culinary Arts

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 nearly 1,000 member businesses, AEF is uniquely positioned to open doors for students, filling a need for career exposure and paths to success.

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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

2021 Annual Review

2020 Annual Review

2019 Annual Review

2018 Annual Review

AEF Staff

Claire Carlin

Executive Director, American Experience Foundation

VP, Partnerships & Alliances, Destination DC


Email Claire

Lisa Waldschmitt

Senior Foundation Manager


Email Lisa

Christen Miller

Christen Miller

Partnership Manager


Email Christen



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, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill


Stacy Eacho Smith

Associate Director for the Division of State Initiatives, DC Department of Employment Services

At-Large Members


Nizam Ali
Co-Owner, Ben's Chili Bowl


Lajja Ashar

Area Manager (Boston, DC, Charlotte),


Michael Borris
Director of Global Accounts, Encore


Jake de Boer

DC Area Account Lead,


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


Abby Himmelrich
Teacher, McLean School


Tanisha Lewis

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


James MacGregor
VP Local Markets, American City Business Journals, Inc


John McDonnell
President, Clyde’s Restaurant Group


Thomas Penny
President, Donohoe Hospitality Services


Michael Riley
General Manager, Big Bus Tours DC

AEF Student Advisory Board


Lauren Brown
Howard University Class of 2022


Jazzmen Morant
Howard University Class of 2024


Zoe Roberts
George Mason University Class of 2022


JP Roberts
Eastern Connecticut State University Class of 2026


Anura Sharma
Georgetown University Class of 2026


Billie Smith
Cornell University Class of 2022


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