The 2016 graduate has been busy before heading to St. Edward’s University in Austin. Alessandra was among the more than 200 students across the country named Student Leaders. They received eight weeks of extensive community service experience. The summer program offers students employment and leadership skills development to do philanthropy.
Interns assist with various aspects of the nonprofits. This allows them to experience what it takes to keep such organizations going.
During her internship, Alessandra has focused on developing volunteer programs for the food bank. She also coordinated the 2016 Hunger Games. Alessandra stated that the program increased her confidence. She was able to go through and do the work without a whole lot of hands-on direction.
“The Houston Food bank has given me a wide and varied experience,” said Alessandra. “The staff taught me about the different aspects of the nonprofit organization. And I’ve learned how the Houston Food Bank works within the community. For example, the nonprofit determines the needs of people and families. Then it reaches out to various sources to fulfill those needs.”
Through the Student Leaders program, Bank of America recognizes young people who contribute to their communities. A panel of judges from Bank of America and partnering organizations select Student Leaders. They look at academic achievement, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience and leadership qualities. The Student Leaders program began in 2004 nationally. Alessandra will join a network of more than 2,200 across the country.
Student leaders like Alessandra are bright. They are thoughtful about what the world can be like or should be like. Bank of America’s Student Leader program seeks to feed that enthusiasm. Bank of America wants to let her see that her work, whatever it is, makes a difference each day.
The Student Leaders program is a key component of Bank of America’s recent announcement committing $40 million to connect 100,000 teens and young adults with skills and experiences that will set them up for successful career opportunities.
Alessandra graduated with honors in June. She was a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar in 2015. She is also a 2016 National Hispanic Recognition Scholar. For Alessandra, giving back to the community is a core part of her life. Before her selection as a Student Leader, she volunteered more than 700 hours. Her positions ranged from being an ambassador and tutor at her high school to a Junior Achievement mentor. She is also a Texas Children’s Hospital volunteer.
She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue secondary education and career goals. This is clear through the work she does in her volunteer activities. It is also apparent in her everyday conversations.
“Breaking the cycle of poverty is important to me,” said Alessandra. “My community is not affluent. Most of the families here don’t have the same privileges as wealthier communities. Education is key to improve opportunities for yourself, your family and your community. Higher education is the key to closing the economic gap.
“By volunteering, I became aware of the multitude of resources in school and in the community. I start conversations with youth in my neighborhood to push past the difficulties and to aim high. There are two constant priorities in everything I do. One is to educate. And the second is to provide resources for others. There is this innate drive to see people overcome hurdles and succeed.”
Alessandra took part in a weeklong summit in Washington, DC in July. She and fellow Student Leaders focused on pathways to leadership. Sessions and discussions centered on how to build a more inclusive society.
The summit gives Student Leaders insight into how the business sector, nonprofits and government work together to solve problems. They also experience a lot of different ways to serve. And that’s what the program is all about, exposing them to new ways of thinking and new opportunities.
While at the capital, the Student Leaders got to visit Congress and meet with Congressman Gene Green. Another highlight included volunteering at the American Red Cross.
“It’s amazing that I got to work with a nonprofit like the Houston Food Bank,” said Alessandra. “The exposure to a variety of experiences has made an impact. This program has opened my eyes to possibilities in the future,” said Urbina.
Most internship opportunities for high school students and even college students are unpaid. That is not the case here. Bank of America Student Leaders are actually paid for their work and involvement. Alessandra was looking for a way to pay for costs not covered by the scholarships she received. The paid internship removed a stress. This is something she is grateful to Bank of America.
“I’ve done years of community service,” said Urbina. “The money was not the biggest draw toward the internship. It was the fact I could get more experience working around the Houston area. I could enhance my leadership skills and learn how to make a bigger impact in and out of my local community.
“However, as a college student with expenses, I am appreciative that this is a paid internship. Thank you Bank of America. My goal is to keep paying it forward.”
Alessandra encourages other students to get involved in their communities.
“Volunteers help create transformational change in their communities,” said Alessandra. “As a volunteer, the reward is getting to see the change you get to make in your community every day.”
Alessandra plans to double major in digital media management and computer information science. She hopes to help businesses lead through ethical practices. Alessandra would like to focus on helping businesses understand how they can impact and help communities.
The Bank of America program has given Alessandra a solid foundation in philanthropy. She intends to continue to involve herself in community service. With her passion for service, she will succeed in whatever she does.
“I feel grateful,” said Urbina about her summer experience. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Bank of America gave me. Volunteering is something I love. And I get so much reward back from helping others.”
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