Queens Bank of America Student Leaders participate in summer youth leadership program

Chantel Umeozor and Nicole Kim are two Bank of America’s Student Leaders. (Photo courtesy of Umeozor and Kim)

Two Queens high school graduates are developing new skills to positively impact their communities in Bank of America’s Student Leaders eight-week summer internship program. 

Nicole Kim, a Little Neck resident and recent graduate of Hunter College High School, and Chantel Umeozor, a Rosedale resident and recent graduate of the Brooklyn Latin School, were selected to participate in the Student Leaders program that recognizes 300 community-focused juniors and seniors from across the U.S. annually. 

“The Bank of America Student Leaders program reinforces our commitment to workforce development by connecting youth to employment, community engagement and leadership opportunities,” Jose Tavarez, president of Bank of America New York City, said. “Young adults are the future of our community, and through Student Leaders we are developing a diverse pipeline of talent with competitive skills and a unique network that will transform our local workforce.”

Kim and Umeozor have started their mentor-focused paid summer internship at the YMCA Greater New York helping the organization deliver programs that empower youth and strengthen communities. They will conduct research and develop social media campaigns while also learning about fundraising, grant writing and event planning.

This year, the format of the program consists of hybrid virtual elements and optional in-person activities. 

For Umeozor, working at the YMCA Greater New York has helped her acquire knowledgeable skills to further her advocacy as a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  

“We work to fundraise money towards the research for finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. This work is close to my heart because it’s something that I feel people don’t talk a lot about and there’s often a stigma behind type 1 diabetes and it’s not brought to light,” said Umeozor, who has type 1 diabetes. 

As a student, Umeozor was a member of the Welcoming School Climate Board that worked to create a more inclusive environment for students entering a specialized high school. Umeozor has also helped with the creation of a library, so students will have the opportunity to read and cultivate their minds. 

Meanwhile, Kim, who has been involved with grassroots organizing and community work among other activities, has been working with the Chinese American Planning Council in New York City and has advocated for racial justice, equity and school diversity.

Kim said that she didn’t realize how many opportunities the YMCA can provide for people. 

“The YMCA is connected to so much throughout the city. “It gave me an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see what nonprofits are doing,” Kim said. “I think that’s what makes the program special. They’re not only supporting you financially, but they’re allowing you to have these opportunities that are intangible but also very valuable.”

In addition to their internships, Kim and Umeozor joined nearly 300 student leaders from across the country for a weeklong Student Leadership Summit that explored how nonprofits, governments and businesses collaborate to meet local needs. 

While traditionally held in Washington, D.C., the summit was adapted to a virtual platform this year and continued to feature the core elements including plenary sessions on pressing topics like Race in America, a mock Congress exercise, Capitol Hill meetings with local representatives, and a service learning project with Save the Children. 

For both students, working at the Greater YMCA has been an insightful experience. 

“Without Bank of America, I wouldn’t have been able to meet people like Chantel who is so passionate and great about what she does,” Kim said. “It’s having those kinds of communities there that are ready to make the world a better place and allow us to all collectively be better people. I encourage everyone to apply. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that everyone should take advantage of.”

Programs like Student Leaders provide access to career skills-building opportunities helping young people that may otherwise be left behind from a fast-changing job market, leading to higher rates of youth unemployment. 

Umeozor said the YMCA has provided her with lifelong skills that she will utilize in the future.

As part of its commitment to workforce development as a pathway to economic mobility, Bank of America is connecting hundreds of teens and young adults to paid jobs and internships both at the bank through its summer employment programs, and at companies and nonprofits across New York City through programs like Career & Technical Education Summer Scholars with the NYC Department of Education and the CUNY New York Yankees Sports Management Internship Program.

“Through the summit, although it was online, it was really great how they worked to make it as much of a learning experience as possible,” Umeozor said. “At the Y, I’ve gained a lot of teamwork skills, learned how nonprofit organizations work, and I’ve honed skills doing outreach to other students and better myself as a person.”