Two Albemarle County homegrown leaders have been strengthening their skills and developing a passion for community work this summer.
Bank of America offers a student leadership program for high school juniors and seniors, which allows young leaders to work within their communities and learn the ins and outs of nonprofit organizations.
“I think it’s important that young people know the work that’s underway in their community and the organizations doing it and to understand that things don’t always happen just at the national level,” Carolyn Rainey, president of Bank of America Charlottesville, told The Daily Progress.
This year’s participants were Ben Brockmeier and Wasif Mohi, rising seniors at Western Albemarle High School. Both told The Daily Progress they are passionate about business and giving back to the community.
Mohi has volunteered at the University of Virginia for the past year and a half helping with cancer research.
“I work with document based research, and when I was in the lab last summer, I was working with samples and experiments, and it was a really rewarding experience,” Mohi said.
Brockmeier’s passion for volunteering is strengthened by his work with the Special Olympics. He coaches tennis and bowling.
“I’m a weekly attender, and I love it so much,” Brockmeier said.
The Bank of America Student Leaders program began in 2004. Its commitment to youth employment and economic mobility hopes to develop a successful “pipeline of community-minded young students,” according to the organization.
“We were fortunate to be able to bring it to the Charlottesville area four years ago,” Rainey said. “The intent of this program is give a work experience to young people, as well as develop them as leaders in helping them to understand how business and nonprofits come together to bring about change.”
The students’ eight-week internship is held with a local nonprofit organization selected by Bank of America.
Mohi and Brockmeier worked with the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, which offers direct services to families to help improve financial stability and school readiness.
The partnership between Bank of America and the local United Way started in 2019, according to Ravi Respeto, president and CEO of the organization. Since then, they’ve seen great results.
“Two years ago one of the students did such an outstanding job during the summer program that we hired them to work part-time their senior year in high school helping us with our social media marketing,” Respeto said. “When they graduated from high school, they actually were accepted at Harvard.”
The day-to-day work for Mohi and Brockmeier consisted of working on social media marketing and advertising.
Having Brockmeier and Mohi was like having “two paid staff members,” Respeto said.
“They join weekly meetings, they really become a part of our team for eight weeks, and I think the level of maturity and professionalism that they both have speaks to the quality of the process that Bank of America has put in place to find local students who really want to learn more about their community and give back,” Respeto said.
Mohi and Brockmeier also helped facilitate the organization’s upcoming Day of Caring held on Sept. 20.
On the annual Day of Caring, local volunteers from companies and organizations complete projects around Charlottesville. Some projects include trail clearing, career counseling and painting playgrounds and classrooms.
“We’ve been mainly contacting organizations and connecting them with volunteers and making sure their projects are submitted for that day,” Mohi said.
Working with United Way helped Mohi deepen his understanding about the functions and principles of nonprofit organizations, he said.
“It opened my eyes to how a nonprofit runs and how nonprofits aren’t really just an independent entity working to better the community,” he said. “It’s a collective effort of multiple nonprofits working together all trying to help each other help others.”
Mohi said he hopes the skills he’s picked up through the program stick.
“I think this program has given me a taste of professional experience,” Mohi said. “Those skills in terms of connecting with others, reaching out to other individuals, emailing and calling, it’s helped my public speaking, and I think it will help me in my future career efforts.”
Seeing how the businesses intersected was one of Brockmeier’s biggest takeaways, he said.
“It’s been very interesting to learn how a for-profit like Bank of America runs, but also a nonprofit like United Way runs because it’s just two different businesses, but they both joined together to just do better in our community,” Brockmeier said.
He said he hopes to use the internship to network as a future business major, he said.
“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people and a lot of bright individuals,” he said. “At the nonprofit and at Bank of America, I’ve met so many amazing people, and I hope to keep connections with them in the future and continue to build my network.”
The two interns spent one of their eight weeks in Washington, D.C., where they participated in a Student Leadership Summit with others like them from more than 90 markets across the U.S. Travel expenses for the summit were paid in full by Bank of America.
Mohi and Brockmeier said they learned about public policy and its impact on the community at the summit.
“One of our major events was going to Capitol Hill and talking to Tim Kaine’s staff,” Mohi said. “That was really impactful getting an idea of how people work in our government to better our community to convey what the constituents believe and want.”
Bank of America said it is always looking to improve the program for future cohorts.
“At the end they will do a presentation to talk about this experience so that we can enhance the program as we go forward,” Rainey said.