Passion for service drives bank interns in philanthropy

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Five area teenagers who are deeply devoted to serving their community and helping others are finishing up an extraordinary summer experience this week. For the past two months they have been working as Bank of America Student Leaders, working on projects for several local non-profit organizations. We are celebrating them and their accomplishments tonight in our Reaching 4 Excellence young achiever report.

James Bednar has had a busy summer ahead of heading to college in Massachusetts in a few weeks to study biomedical engineering. The valedictorian of the 2016 senior class at Liberty High School has been leading teams of teenagers from Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City doing projects at local non-profit organizations. We caught up with James and his crew at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises, an organic farming operation in Kansas City Kansas where there’s never a lack of chores to do.

“Just sort of helping to clean up the farm and weed,” said James about the chores he and his team are doing. “Whatever farmer Joe needs here. So, I’ve been getting some really varied experience with that.” While James was working at J-14 Farms team leaders Rachel Li and Lauren Bernard were putting in service time with Youth Volunteer Corps members at Kansas City Community Kitchen serving meals to homeless and low income people and preparing food to deliver to those who couldn’t make it to the center. Lauren just graduated from The Barstow School where she co-founded and led a large service-oriented student organization and Rachel did the same thing at Olathe South High School.

“I feel tremendously grateful,” said Rachel about her summer experience. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really, to be able to do what I love and also, get so much reward back.” Rachel, Lauren and James along with Maria Torres out of Saint Pius X High School and Katelyn McAlister who went to Raytown High School all got eight weeks of extensive community service experience this summer as Bank of America Student Leaders. That’s an internship program offered to just a handful of high school juniors and seniors in 45 U-S metropolitan areas each summer for employment and skills development and to do philanthropy.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to expose students who have demonstrated that they have this passion for community service to how corporate America, non-profits and government work together to make the world a better place and experience a lot of different ways to serve,” said Linda Lenza, a Bank of America senior vice president and marketing manager in Kansas City. “And that’s what the program is all about, exposing them to new ways of thinking and new opportunities.” Since the inception of its Student Leaders internship program in 2004 Bank of America has partnered in Kansas City with Youth Volunteer Corps because of YVC’s involvement with numerous non-profits.

“We really feel it’s given the students a very robust experience,” said Lenza. To cap off their internships, Katelyn, Maria, James, Lauren and Rachel got to participate in a weeklong summit in Washington, DC with the other Bank of America Student Leaders from across the country to focus on pathways to leadership and building a more inclusive society.

“To be able to do something like this where I’ve been able to be working with non-profits throughout the summer and just get a variety of different experiences I think is going to open so many opportunities in the future,” said James. Unlike many, if not most, internships these days for high school and even college students the Bank of America Student Leaders are actually paid for their work and involvement. The interns said they really appreciate that money but they’d do this without it.

“I’ve done years of community service beforehand so it wasn’t necessarily the money that was drawing me into this internship,” said Rachel. “It was the fact I get more experience working around the Kansas City area, making a bigger impact outside of my local community.”

“Just being able to go out into the community every day has been astronomically helpful for me in figuring out what I really want to focus on when I get out of college,” said James. “And not only that but getting to see the change you get to make in your community every day is very rewarding, as well.” It’s a solid foundation to make their passion for service come alive in whatever they do.

As they begin their studies at universities around the country this summer, the five local Bank of America Student Leaders all said they plan to study for careers that will either directly involve community service leadership or have it as a strong element.

Since the inception of its Student Leaders internship program in 2004 Bank of America has partnered in Kansas City with Youth Volunteer Corps because of YVC’s strong connections with numerous non-profits. The local Student Leader interns are putting on a silent auction to benefit Youth Volunteer Corps.

Go to the YVC website to take part.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.