Serve To LEAD hosts Bank of America Student Leaders

By BCS Communications

Two Buncombe County School students are wrapping up a unique paid internship opportunity that allows them to build skills for a future career as well as give back to our community. Anahy Felipe De La Cruz is in her fifth year at Buncombe County Early College. Sofia Szostczuk is a senior at Enka High School. These civic-minded students were selected as Bank of America (BofA) Student Leaders. They interned with the local nonprofit Serve to LEAD this summer, which has allowed them to cultivate their workforce and leadership skills. The program they focused on was the Early Learning Summer Academy, which helps students in grades K-4 avoid the summer slide and retain more of what they learned the previous year.

“We specifically have been learning about these projects as well as working consistently at the Early Learning Summer Academy to aid these children to success,” said Sofia. “I have a newfound love for service, leadership, and truly grasping the full story of everyone.”

Anahy and Sofia participated in both virtual and in-person activities as part of the internship.

“Our major task [with Serve to LEAD] is to engage the student in the given lesson and to assist the teacher,” Anahy said. “After midday, the students have free time and play outside. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we teach the older kids about science or geography. I oversee science on Tuesday; I have taught them about the water cycle, the creation of glass, the five oceans, and physical versus chemical change.”

Anahy helps Jayana with her science lesson

Sofia leads a lesson on chemical reactions

Without access to career skills-building opportunities like the Student Leaders program, many young people may be left behind in a fast-changing job market. As part of its commitment to workforce development as a pathway to economic mobility, Bank of America has connected more than 30 teens and young adults across Western North Carolina to paid jobs and internships through summer youth employment programs.

“Bank of America remains committed to supporting young adults by connecting them to jobs, community engagement opportunities, and leadership development,” said Andy Nadeau, president, Bank of America Asheville. “We recognize young adults are the future of our community, which is why programs like Student Leaders are one way we can provide paid opportunities for local students to gain valuable job experience while contributing to the development of a diverse pipeline of local talent.”

Jessica Tripp, Executive Director of Serve To LEAD, says Bank of America has been a strong supporter of the nonprofit’s local work. By connecting enthusiastic interns to the program, the organization is able to better meet the various needs of the children they serve.

“Through our relationship with BofA, we learned of the opportunity to apply to become the host organization for the Bank of America Student Leaders,” said Ms. Tripp. “We were immediately impressed with the level of leadership training and networking opportunities that the student leaders program provides. The concept of the program was a perfect fit for Serve To LEAD, as leadership development is a central focus of Serve To LEAD’s poverty alleviation work.”

Ms. Tripp adds that Sofia and Anahy have been enthusiastic about growing as leaders and learning more about building communities both here at home and abroad.

“Sofia and Anahy both have an interest in social justice,” said Ms. Tripp. “It is our hope that as they work with us, alongside marginalized communities, that the pursuit of equity will become the thrust of their daily lives and future careers.”

Sofia and Anahy say they are exploring many career options as they enter their last year of high school. For now, they say they’ve had a rewarding and enriching experience helping to educate and inspire our next generation of students and leaders.“I am still unsure of my career goals-potentially law or public service,” said Sofia. “This internship has really redirected those goals as I have understood the importance of community involvement and using the voice of the youth of America!”

“The kids are all great, and I have learned a lot from them,” said Anahy. “There is a brilliant 8-year-old boy, and when I teach him, he constantly desires to finish his assignments correctly. He says, ‘If I do something, I want to do it right’ and that has stuck with me since! His goal is to become president, and I believe in him and his capability of accomplishing big things.”

The Student Leaders program, which started in 2004, recognizes 300 community-focused juniors and seniors from across the U.S. annually. As part of this summer’s program, Student Leaders have also taken part in a virtual Summit in partnership with the Close Up Foundation to participate in Stanford University’s Young Democracy at Home program, which encourages conversation about current issues facing young people today.