Student Leaders internship

Students from several Indianapolis high schools were paid interns at Newfields during the summer as part of a program through Bank of America. Students helped Newfields attract a younger audience and took a trip to Washington, D.C. L-R: Desmond Williamson, Leila Champion, Julia Brookshire and Feven Tekeste. (Photo provided)

If high school students want some spending money over the summer before they go back to school or head off to college, they’re supposed to mow lawns or flip burgers or see if they can get those SoundCloud numbers up. But that doesn’t always have to be the case.

Some Indianapolis high school students interned at Newfields for eight weeks. It was basically a full-time job. They worked 40 hours a week, got paid and helped the organization expand its influence.

It was part of Bank of America’s Student Leaders program, which gives high school juniors and seniors internships at nonprofits. Student Leaders is a 15-year-old program, but this was the first year in Indianapolis.

“The connections that you make during this internship are the most important part,” said Desmond Williamson, a senior at George Washington High School. “It’s not about the work or presentations you give. It’s about the people you meet and how you see them adapt to different situations.”

Williamson and three other students spent their eight weeks developing ways for Newfields to attract a younger audience. The students took turns as the team leader each week and gave presentations on their ideas.

In the middle of their time as interns, they took a trip to Washington, D.C., where they met lawmakers and the more than 300 other students from across the country who were part of the program.

“If you think about what we’re trying to do, we want to connect these students to their community,” said Andy Crask, Bank of America market president for Indianapolis. “… There’s two elements to the D.C. trip. They get access to leaders. Plus, you can network with other students from across the country.”

Leila Champion, a graduate of Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School, said the trip was “amazing” because they talked about social justice, education, mass incarceration and other important issues with students who shared the same passion.

Part of the benefit of having an internship program for high schoolers is that the stakes aren’t too high. They aren’t college seniors trying to impress an employer because they’ll be looking for a job at the end of the semester. It was a true learning experience without a lot of pressure.

“It’s very important because most people don’t have the opportunity to get an internship until they’re in college,” said Champion, who attends the University of Notre Dame.

Champion noted that many students don’t even get the chance to go to college, so an internship in high school could be even more important to help students figure out what their next step in life is.

She said the internship was a chance to learn “soft skills” that students aren’t able to pick up in school. That includes learning your personality traits and figuring out how to work best with others.

Before the internship, Williamson said, he would “stay in my lane and do what I was already exceeding at,” but interacting with other students, especially at the summit in D.C., made everyone “evolve out of our shells.”

Crask said the program will be available to Indianapolis students again next summer, and the application process will open in November. Visit about.bankofamerica.com to learn more about the program.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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