Since 2006, the Student Leaders program has played a vital role in Bank of America’s ongoing commitment to youth employment and economic mobility in Hampton Roads. The national program recognizes 300 community-focused juniors and seniors every year.
Students participate in an eight-week internship with local nonprofits that culminates with a week-long national leadership summit in Washington, DC. The students hail from many diverse backgrounds and are united by their drive and commitment. Through paid internships with local nonprofits and participation in a national leadership summit, they gain hands-on practical work and life experience.
Michelle Little, community relations manager with Bank of America, said four high school students are chosen from greater Hampton Roads schools annually to participate in the program. This year, two students who attend Peninsula high schools were chosen to participate in the program: Alexis Golart, a rising senior at Tabb High School in York County, and Aaron Lin, a rising senior at Woodside High School in Newport News. The internship program focuses on skill development, leadership opportunities, service outreach, and more.
Golart understands what it feels like to be the new kid on the block. Part of a military family, she’s familiar with the sacrifices military servicemembers and their families endure. Golart founded “Explore Every Opportunity,” a club at Tabb High School that assists incoming students with cultivating their interests through school activities and programs. Her dedication to fellow students in her community led her to be a perfect fit for an internship at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.
“The staff at the Mariners’ Museum has been amazing,” said Golart. “They have me on a rotation, so every week or so, I get to work in a different department within the museum. I’m currently working in archives, so I’ve gotten to touch books older than I imagined that I’d be allowed around.”
Golart looks forward to working with marketing, educational, and conservations programs at the museum in addition to other exciting endeavors.
“I get to interview the CEO while working with leadership, which I’m really excited about,” said Golart. “It’s really the perfect combination, being able to explore all these different areas.”
Lin knows the challenges immigrants face in America. His mother immigrated from China as a teenager and spoke little English when she arrived in the United States. She persevered through hard work and currently owns and operates Jing Jing Asian Restaurant in Newport News, where Lin regularly helps out. A violin player for the past seven years, he chose to intern with Soundscapes, a nonprofit based out of Newport News that focuses on building welcoming communities through music.
In addition to interning with Soundscapes and working at his family’s restaurant, Lin also runs a club called Students Say at Woodside High School on the side.
“I want to make the club a nonprofit, so I thought it would be a great way to connect by working with a nonprofit this summer and take the information I learn and adapt it to ‘Students Say,’” said Lin. “We have 35 members so far and try to find opportunities to develop leadership skills. We’ve done some fundraising and hope to provide a leadership seminar for students when we go back to school in the fall.”
Lin said he had the opportunity of sitting in on a budget approval meeting at Soundscapes during his first week of employment and looks forward to what’s around the corner.
“I’ll be working with the Soundscapes summer camps while mentoring younger students in the string section,” said Lin. “I’ll also be gathering feedback and quotes from the students to see how we can get more students interested in the program. I’ll be gathering quotes for the marketing team to use in program flyers and for their website.”
This year’s Leadership Summit will be held July 17 through July 21.
“I’ve been a part of the program since its inception, and it’s one of my favorite programs here at Bank of America,” said Little. “At this time, there’s been more than 3,900 young people recognized as student leaders around the country. Due to covid, we haven’t had an in-person Leadership Summit in Washington, DC since 2019, so we’re super excited to bring these students together. The leadership workshop will focus on civic engagement, mentorship, building upon their leadership skills, and also financial wealth.”
Students who are interested in applying for Bank of America’s 2024 Student Leaders program are welcome to submit applications from October 2023 through January 2024. For more information, visit Bank of America’s website.