Not every form of investment involves writing a pay check.
In fact, some of the most lucrative investments tend not to relate to a dollar figure at all.
Bank of America’s Student Leaders program is the institution’s way of investing in citizens who’ll eventually help shape the communities where they live.
The program, consisting of an eight-week, paid internship for high school juniors and seniors has concluded another summer and this year’s participants say they’re glad to have had the experience. Five Detroit-area students contributed their time and talents at Focus: HOPE, keeping with the Bank of America Student Leaders goal to enlighten young people about the role non-profits play in improving society.
“The best experience for me is teaching the young children in Detroit,” says Kayla Thomas, a student at University High School Academy. “To have an impact on how people learn and to help inspire a passion for reading really meant a lot to me.”
Along with various other initiatives supported by Focus: HOPE, the 50-year-old organization borne from the ashes of 1967’s Detroit uprising, the nonprofit’s Center for Children stresses early education and pre-kindergarten skills.
“One thing I’ll take with me is my actions and my voice are enough to create change,” Kayla says. “We’ve met so many people who didn’t always know where to start, but had the passion and dedication to start and now are making a difference.”
Leadership program student Liam Householder, of University of Detroit-Jesuit High, says he got in touch with his individuality through his time in the internship.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned is it’s best to just be yourself,” Liam says. “Sometimes you may think you don’t have the knowledge or experience to contribute, but if you rely on your own strengths you can get the job done.”
Arslan Anjum, of Utica Academy for International Studies, shares a perspective similar to Liam’s, saying “change starts at an individual level.”
“All you need is a few people to make a change that can be everlasting,” he says.
Along with Detroit, Bank of America’s Student Leadership program operates in dozens of cities nationwide. First-hand exposure to government, business and community agencies is designed to help students better understand the sectors that support neighborhood and city infrastructure.
Each participant attends a Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. This year’s interns met Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence during the five-day trip, and they interacted with other youths in the program.
“It was good seeing different viewpoints from different regions. Seeing people our age, who have a similar mindset and people who want to serve and inspire change in their community, was motivational for me,” says Troy High School’s Justin Wilson.
Cass Technical’s Amina Khalique was impressed by the pool of 221 other participants representing Bank of America Student Leadership programs nationally, in addition to the five from Michigan she joined.
“Now we have a network of 226 Student Leaders, so if you really want to make a difference you are never alone,” says Amina. “We have like-minded people like us all over the country.”
Kayla says she was impressed not only by the Student Leadership’s engagement initiatives and activities, but by “how culturally aware the whole program is.”
Attention to “things like the structural injustices and racism in our communities and the real impact of poverty on people” were educational and eye-opening for the student.
Arslan called visiting the nation’s capital a rewarding trip.
“All the Student Leaders started brainstorming ideas to help people in need,” he says. “Having a lot of bright minds together was unique and brought an understanding that working together you can make a difference.”
For more information about the Bank of America Student Leaders program, visit https://about.bankofamerica.com/en-us/global-impact/student-leader-eligibility-criteria.html.