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Student Leaders Work On The Pressing Issue Of Homelessness

Student Leaders Work On The Pressing Issue Of Homelessness

In center, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, (D-CA) at the Capitol with student leaders Parisa Mir, Zayne Abraham, Elisabeth Floyd and Aahaan Bandopadhyay.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Every year, Bank of America selects about 300 outstanding high school students from across the U.S. to serve as student leaders for the summer.  The program includes an eight-week paid summer internship providing students with first-hand experience in serving their communities. As part of the program, the students develop leadership and practical workforce skills while working with local nonprofits and earning $17 per hour. This year, the Silicon Valley non-profit organizations hosting Student Leaders were  HIP Housing and LifeMoves, both dedicated to funding and implementing solutions to homelessness

Two Indian Americans selected for the Bank of America award, speak of the work they did:

By Zayne Abraham, Aragon High School, San Mateo, CA

Serve, Inspire, Change! That was what my experience in the Bank of America Student Leaders program was about. It began with me serving my community with an internship with a local non-profit organization in San Mateo County called HIP Housing. I learned about how nonprofits get funding as well as how they budget their funding so that they always have enough money to keep going. 

I also learned about local bills that are going toward solving the huge homelessness problem in California. I helped with reaching out to the local community to find potential clients. I tabled at events at local fairs to increase awareness about HIP Housing as a resource for the homeless and wrote emails to realtors in the county to increase awareness about accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that are a big possible solution to the housing crisis. 

After four weeks with HIP Housing, I attended the Student Leaders Summit in Washington D.C.  I learned so many new things about being a leader. I was inspired by informative guest speakers who spoke about pressing issues as well as other student leaders who have done some incredible things. I learned about leadership and enjoyed the trips to monuments and acquiring a historical perspective.

The highlight of my experience at the Summit was going to Capitol Hill, meeting with Rep. Jimmy Panetta and a staffer from Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office and discussing issues I have seen in my community. It was amazing to ask questions that have bothered me for years, of people who have real knowledge about what is being done.

After five days at the Summit, I used what I learned from the Summit for the last three weeks of my internship with HIP Housing. Overall, my experience from the Student Leaders program has made me a better leader and helped me learn so much about how to change the world. 

By Aahaan Bandopadhyay, Lynbrook High School, San Jose, CA

Over the summer I was able to work at the homeless and refugee shelter, LifeMoves, as a part of the Bank of America Student Leaders program, where I was based out of San José.

Throughout the eight weeks that I was working there, my main job was focused on childhood development. Since most of the parents of the children were out either looking for jobs or working during the day, the children usually had no one with them to help them learn, and especially during summer where there’s no structured time for learning or for play, many of these children are put an even larger disadvantage in school then they already have.

During my internship, I created schedules for the children to come to the summer camp location at a San José park and do activities, I visited different motels and shelters to teach children healthy eating habits, and worked directly with the children in creating fun activities to make this summer an unforgettable one.

Our five-week summer camp served children at the surrounding shelters, and during one of the weeks of the camp we had a 16-year-old girl who was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who only spoke French, so I was her translator, helping her fit in and participate.

We worked with about 50 children in providing meals and education, but I think the most impactful part of it was the time we spent with each of the kids. Most of them are unable to see their parents when they are at home, so being there for the kids and making sure they have a positive experience during their summers was a great experience for me. Despite the many challenges that had to do with the language barriers between the children, working with them has been an absolute joy that has taught me so much about the struggles that come with homelessness, and how we as a society can aid people struggling during these difficult times.

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