Five area teens were selected to be part of Bank of America's Student Leader's Program this summer and have been spending their time working to better the world around them for the last five weeks.
- Eric Altamura, a Stamford resident and rising senior at Stamford High School, is interning at the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford. Eric has been heavily involved in the community as a literacy coach at his local church, a peer tutor at ALTA – a tutoring service for students with Hispanic backgrounds – and an active member of buildOn.
- Woody Pierre, a Stamford resident and recent graduate of Westhill High School, is interning at the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford. Woody has been an active member of the Boys and Girls Club since age six and received the Youth of the Year award in 2011. He served as director at his church’s youth choir and co-director at the Breakout Gospel Choir.
- Alanna Cooney, a Norwalk resident and rising senior at Norwalk High School, is interning at the Carver Center in Norwalk. Alanna has participated in many community service events such as the 30 Hour Famine, Paintings for Puppies and Outward Bound. During her time as a volunteer for the 30 Hour Famine, Alanna visited elderly home-care facilities and soup kitchens across Fairfield County.
- Karen Seymour, a Bridgeport resident and rising senior at Bassick High School, is interning at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. Karen has been extremely involved with her church by volunteering at the soup kitchen and fulfilling the role of secretary, teacher and assistant on the church’s youth committee. She also participated as the lead organizer of Bassick High’s Campus Beautification day and is an active tutor.
- Brenda Whittingham, a Bridgeport resident and recent graduate of Bullard Havens Technical High School, is interning at Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. Brenda is one of four participants in the original community service program, Helping Hands, where she volunteers by providing food and clothing to the local community.
In July, each of these students traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in a Student Leadership Summit with 220 other students from across the nation. The program is designed to build upon the leadership qualities each of the participating students possesses and preparing them to enter the workforce.
The students work with a local non-profit, for which Bank of America pays their wages through their Charitable Foundation efforts.
Altamura and Pierre both spend time at the Stamford Boys and Girls Club working with children there, helping them have fun through the summer and giving them positive role models. Altamura is in his fifth week in the program, but Pierre, now 17, has been with the organization for roughly 13 years already.
"It's my second year with the program as a counselor," Pierre said. "I see the club has really adapted. The number of staff and kids keeps growing. It's one place troubled kids can find a place, find friends and grow on an educational level."
Altamura said the impact their presence makes on the children is palpable. He doesn't have to do much to see the effect he has on the children with whom he spends so much time.
"It’s really great, being here helping these kids," he said. "All these kids have potential, all they've needed is just need someone to guide them. It's been great to watch them tap into that potential, watching them really become better people. It's really great to know we're having an impact."
Cooney, who's working as a counselor at the Carver Center in Norwalk, said it hasn't just been all the work with kids she's been able to do that has inspired her, but also getting to watch how a business like the Carver Center operates from the inside-out.
"Sitting in on meetings, getting to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff, being on the front lines. It's been great," Conney said. "It's been great to see how much effort goes into taking care of the kids and how much planning goes into a program like this."
Conney, who wants to go into marine biology, said she'd eventually like to be a teacher. She said the program has taught her invaluable business knowledge, lessons on how to connect with others and that the future is brighter than ever.
"Working at this non-profit has taught me not only business lessons but how to connect with others," Conney said. "From what I've seen, I absolutely think that my generation is ready for whatever comes next. going to the summit, seeing these future leaders and how dedicated everyone was—It gives me lot hope for our future."