Story by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of Bank of America.
In a summer marked by virtual volunteering, a committed group of high school students grew, not only as leaders, but as investors in their community. The Bank of America Student Leaders in North Texas set aside the in-person volunteer assignments that are typically part of the paid internship program, and created a way to serve the kids at Fort Worth’s Community Enrichment Center (CEC). While more than 300 students participate in the Student Leaders program across the country each summer, five D-FW students jumped in as virtual science tutors and reading coaches, engaging children in CEC’s Summer Learning program.
Will Lourcey, a rising senior from R.L. Paschal High School, first learned about the Bank of America Student Leaders program from his school counselor. Even as a student, Will has a deep history with the nonprofit sector, even founding his own 501(c)3 organization FROGS at the age of seven. “I enjoyed interacting with kids, even though our initial plans changed because of pandemic,” says Will. “We worked on science projects, literacy, and reading books. The kids seemed to enjoy it even in video form— we exchanged stories, and told jokes, and I even showed them my dog.”
Will’s experience in the Student Leaders program connected him not only with leaders at a local nonprofit, but also local staff from the Bank of America corporate office. With plans to attend Texas A&M, enter the foreign service, and continue running his own nonprofit, Will used his time as a Student Leader to deepen his understanding of what it truly takes to holistically serve a community. “Our mission at FROG has always been ‘Have a plan, gather friends, and change the world,’ because we all have the ability to make a significant change in the world,” says Will. “I would highly recommend this kind of leadership program to other students who want to explore various interests, learn about new areas in their community, and make life-long friends.”
The Student Leaders program has been active for more than 15 years, meeting the needs of both students and local cause-based organizations. “Now more than ever, as we collectively navigate the challenges we face in our communities, we remain committed to supporting youth and young adults of all backgrounds by connecting them to jobs, skills-building and leadership development,” says Mike Pavell, market president, Bank of America in Fort Worth. “Creating opportunities for our youth to gain skills and build a network is a powerful investment in the future of our community.” And even though this year’s internship took on a virtual format due to public health concerns, students were still able to play a role in the real work of social change.
Shang Wang learned about Bank of America Student Leaders at her early college program in Denton. Her previous volunteer experiences had focused on gathering the required community service hours for graduation and college applications, but after her experience as a Student Leader, she sees the value of dedicating time to a cause where you can use your interests and skills. “Volunteering around STEM topics was aligned with my interest, rather than simply stacking books at the library,” says Shang. “Helping people is the priority, but it can also be aligned with your passions and values so that you are actually making an impact. Being passionate about what you do is important.”
Shang also encourages students to apply for programs like Student Leaders, even if it is on a digital platform. “The Bank of America team worked hard and found a way to make the program come together virtually. We were trained in leadership skills, connected with other students, and also had the chance to work closely with a nonprofit. Bank of America was incredibly genuine and they are giving a strong foundation for so many students.”
As an internship, the Student Leaders program is collaborative and focused on connecting high school students with partners, learning about the inner workings of a nonprofit like board activity and fundraising. For students who are still searching for a career path or have yet to land on a college major, they are given the opportunity to explore, find ways to affect change, and create real impact in their city.
If you would like to learn more or apply for the 2021 class of Student Leaders, you can find out more at the Bank of America website.