MONTEREY COUNTY — High school juniors and seniors have until the Jan. 29 deadline to apply for Bank of America’s prestigious Student Leaders program, which provides a paid summer internship at local nonprofits.

Two community-driven high school juniors or seniors from Monterey County are selected each year by BOA to participate. Last summer, Clarissa Medina from Soledad and Aldo Saldana from Salinas were selected and served virtually with Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County.

Medina and Saldana participated in online sessions with 300 nationwide student leaders to learn more about the role nonprofits play in community health and social change.

The program’s aim is part of the bank’s effort to develop leadership experience in local youth. Their work last year included supporting a nutritional services program that assists farmers and the food industry to reduce food insecurity.

“Being the daughter of a farmworker and being surrounded by many who are farmworkers, I always heard ‘If you don’t study, you’ll end up in the fields,’ and this can be true because one of the most common jobs in my community is agriculture,” Medina said. “More often than not, when I sought out opportunities, I had to commute 30 minutes to Salinas. That’s why many students work in the fields as their summer job instead of having the opportunity to be enriched in an internship.”

Saldana added, “We hardly see any of these engineers, businessmen and other professions really put the time in to make an impact on their community. I want to be that kind of role model. A minority who was able to pursue a degree and leave their community to become successful.”

This is the third year for the program in Monterey County, part of an ongoing BOA program since 2004 to provide youth employment and economic mobility.

Student interns work for eight weeks with a local nonprofit and are paid $5,000. Their duties include leading projects and helping the nonprofit with client needs.

“Preparing community-minded teens with the leadership training they need to be successful in the workforce is all part of our commitment to building a thriving community and driving responsible growth right here in Monterey Bay,” said Cheryl Reiss, a BOA consultant. “The Student Leaders internship is a great way for teens and young adults to get experience in the working world and begin developing their career.”

Last year’s intern experience was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, causing work to be completed virtually. This year is expected to include virtual components, as well.

“Typically Student Leaders attend a weeklong summit held in Washington, D.C.,” Reiss said. “This year, like last year, the summit will be held virtually.”

The exact project the 2021 interns will work on this year will be determined later. To apply, or for more information, visit the BOA website.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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