HUNTERSVILLE – Rising SouthLake Christian Academy senior Emily Wakeman was one of five local high school students granted a summer internship through Bank of America’s Student Leaders Program.

The program helps youth from around the country gain real world experience to prepare them for future careers.

Charles Bowman, North Carolina and Charlotte market president of Bank of America, said the bank uses its resources to connect young people to skills and jobs.

Bank of America fully funds the Student Leaders Program, an eight-week paid internship at the YWCA and Freedom School Partners and a separate trip to Washington, D.C. for the program’s leadership summit. 

“We see the Student Leaders Program as a way to provide students with an interest in making a difference to build upon their leadership skills while also working to improve the community,” Bowman said. 

Wakeman began working at YWCA, an organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace for all, in June. She works five days a week at the YWCA Student Learning Center and outside facilities.

The Cornelius resident along with a teammate work to improve children’s reading comprehension levels and tests them on books they read. Wakeman also works for the programs, Families Together and Women’s Transition.

“I have learned so much about teamwork and responsibility,” Wakeman said. “It takes a team to make a nonprofit run.”

Bank of America chose students who they saw were passionate about the community, completed previous community service and had a certain grade point average.

“Our Student Leaders Program benefits high school juniors and seniors, who have already shown an interest in leadership and volunteerism, by providing an opportunity to expand their experience and skill set to help them become even stronger leaders in our community,” Bowman said.

Wakeman feels she has benefited tremendously from the Student Leaders Program. Interning at YWCA has influenced her life.  

“I have grown as a person,” she said. “I have learned to be creative about things I am passionate about and think outside the box.”

From July 14 to 19, Wakeman visited Washington, D.C. as part of the program’s leadership summit to listen to speakers on how they can implement their goals in the community. 

The students also met U.S. Congressmen Richard Burr and Robert Pittenger to speak with the legislators about issues they felt were important.  

“I have been more inspired in that entire week than I ever have in my life,” Wakeman said. 

During her sophomore year, Wakeman and a classmate began a nonprofit called Kicks 4 Kids. 

In April of last year, the organization hosted a 5K to give shoes for kids from low-income families.

“We focus more on how we reach out to kids than the number of kids,” Wakeman said. “That is something I am so passionate about. Every kid should have the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle.”

She expects her experiences learning about nonprofits at YWCA will carry over to Kicks 4 Kids.  

Wakeman hopes to attend UNC-Chapel Hill or Vanderbilt once she graduates from SouthLake and plans to study political science and communication studies.

“If we hope to advance Charlotte and the state’s future workforce, the business community needs to support summer job opportunities for our youth,” Bowman said. “These opportunities provide work experience, which all employers look for and is essential if we want to address record unemployment for teens.” 

Since 2004, Bank of America has recognized more than 2,000 teens as Students Leaders across the country.