Charlotte Desi Teens’ Summer Internship as Bank of America Student Leaders

By Abhishek Singh & Anushree Sengupta

Our Story

A month after the stay-at-home orders had been mandated, the two of us received life-altering news. We had been both selected as a Bank of America Student Leader for the Charlotte, NC Market.

The Bank of America Student Leaders Program was created in 2004 to connect high school students across the nation and prepare them with the leadership skills necessary to enter the workforce and help better their communities. Also, students are given a paid internship with local non-profits and participate in an all-expenses-paid national summit in Washington D.C. We were ecstatic when we received the news that we had been selected, and we were ready to engage and become an agent for change within our community. So along with everyone else affected, our Student Leader experience took a different path due to the pandemic, which resulted in it moving to a completely virtual program. Despite the new program approach, we were still excited to see what was in store for us.

In late June, we began our internship. Instantly, we connected with the rest of the team. As our market leader phrased it, “you all were destined to work together; the five of you being chosen to become student leaders was no mere coincidence." Each of us brought unique perspectives and talents to the table, and had past experiences dealing with racism, our very own unique family history, and immigration stories. We learned from and with each other about how we could turn our past conflicts into an empowering voice to speak up for other minorities. Over the entirety of the program, we bonded over late-night calls and worked together to achieve a common goal – to end discrimination and ignorance.

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation partnered with Mentor.org to host national calls where we learned about proper etiquette in the workplace, professional development, the importance of mentoring relationships, and the impact of social media. Also, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation partnered with the Close Up Foundation and Stanford University to host a Young Democracy at Home Series, where we debated with other Student Leaders about the economy and healthcare. The Young Democracy at Home series served as an eye-opening experience that allowed us to learn about different issues in society, especially those that impact young adults around our age. Then, we had follow-up sessions in which we used social media to educate the public on different issues dealing with either economics, health care, or civic engagement. These sessions served as an opportunity to bring change to our communities by using our voices to educate individuals and hopefully change some incorrect perspectives on different social issues including health, economics and civic engagement.

In addition, all of the Charlotte Student Leaders were partnered with a local nonprofit YWCA Central Carolinas to create a broad course on racial justice to educate children from K-5th grade. This meant finding ways to explain complex concepts such as the Black Lives Matter, Native American history, stereotyping, privilege, immigration, and civic engagement in simple language and engaging activities. As challenging as it was, we were destined to work together and were fortunate to have members of the team who had past teaching experiences, understood the law, and the importance of civic engagement. We were able to offer our own unique experiences because we had each dealt with racism, and we were able to use those experiences among other resources to create informative content for parents and children. Unfortunately, racism has existed in America since our country's founding, and our goal is to get the youth to unlearn prejudices and relearn the proper way to treat others around them. We believe that having conversations about these topics is crucial to ending systematic racism and fostering inclusivity.

Through this internship, we learned how to become better leaders within our community and to become more cognizant about the issues that plague our nation. While working on the YWCA Project, we realized that the root of bigotry is a lack of education. Therefore, we hope that our packets of information about different racial minority groups will provide a pathway to a future of inclusivity. Also, while working on our local project, we were forced to confront and correct our own biases. In our national events and projects, we learned the importance of networking and communication. Since many of us live in different time zones, we had to use effective communication to complete tasks. Also, we got to meet other exceptional Student Leaders. We are truly grateful to have been a part of this program. The lessons and skills that we acquired in this program will be with us for the rest of our professional lives.

We would like to offer a special thanks to Paul Burley and Bank of America for allowing us to participate in this marvelous internship and allowing us to become better leaders within our community!

----------

Abhishek Singh is a recent graduate from Lake Norman Charter high school and plans to attend NC State University this fall. Contact: abhisheksingh1235@gmail.com

Anushree Sengupta is a Senior at Providence High School in Charlotte and plans to continue her academic career by pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Technology. Contact: sengupta.anushree.2014@gmail.com