In the past few years, I’ve grown as a student, professional, and citizen by taking advantage of several opportunities in my community and connecting with those around me. I grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, graduated from Hartford Public High School in 2009 and earned my Bachelors of Science in Business Management from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) in 2013.
As an active member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (B&GC) for 10 years, I spent most of my childhood involved in community activities. My long-standing involvement resulted in an invitation to be a member of the 2008 Bank of America Student Leaders program. This was an opportunity offered to students who were nominated by community leaders and it was an honor to be selected as a member of the cohort.
My invitation included a paid internship as a Youth Development Professional at the B&GC, mentoring and coaching from Bank of America and B&GC leaders, in addition to the Student Leaders Conference in our nation’s capital, now my home. Through coaching sessions, I learned about effective communication, networking, and leadership. These skills were useful for me when I attended the conference in D.C., where I established a network of great peers with whom I still keep close contact. The experiences I had in internship and at the summit were so important in my professional and personal growth, and really cemented my dedication to working in youth development.
After the Student Leaders Conference in 2008, I had the honor of speaking before President Barack Obama, Jon Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, and other community leaders at Columbia University. I was able to share my experiences and passion for youth development and empowerment with others who had similar interests and passions.
My experience with the Students Leaders program helped me gain a greater appreciation and understanding for the importance of supporting young people. While at UCONN, I co-founded an organization, Brothers Reaching Our Society (B.R.O.S.), focused on the growth and development of young men. B.R.O.S. was rooted from the lessons learned from the Student Leaders program. It was my way of giving back to peers who had potential to impact their communities in a positive way.
After I graduated from college, I was hired as the 2013 Summer Assistant Hall Director for the Student Support Services (SSS) Program at UCONN. SSS is a program that increases access to UCONN for first-generation, low-income, and/or underrepresented students with the goal of graduation. This role allowed me to serve as a coach and mentor to the students who were in the same position as me in 2009. I deferred starting at Booz Allen Hamilton in order to help students who didn’t know where to turn for guidance and I am so glad I did. The program was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career and I am extremely fortunate to say that I was a part of the program and an essential component to its development and growth.
My varied experiences working with youth have taught me that many young people feel motivated and inspired when someone other than their family believes in them, especially if families are unsupportive or absent. The personal commitment from the B&GC President, Sam Gray and Bank of America employees like Dean Andrews and Andrew Plepler carried a direct impact on my progress. It was really encouraging to see so many adults invested in my success and I wanted to show other students that the support they need is out there.
For the rising young leaders out there, take advantage of the resources offered at your schools and communities. Resources are available that help young people develop academically, professionally, and personally to serve as community stewards. Challenge yourself to meet new people and learn something daily. At times we may feel uncomfortable, but this feeling helps us find hidden talents and capabilities we may be unaware of. Always keep progress in motion and remember that being average is unacceptable!
The Bank of America Student Leaders program recognizes high school juniors and seniors who step outside of the classroom to contribute service in their own communities and beyond. Student Leaders are awarded paid summer internships with local nonprofit organizations and participate in a Student Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C.