GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Most students don’t start thinking about internship opportunities until they get to college, which is why leaders with Bank of America want to help young people get a jump start on their future. 

“Anytime someone can get exposure out in the workplace right, make those connections, start their networking, be able to show on their resume that they are able to deliver an output early on in their career makes a big difference,” said Renee Tabben, president of Bank of America in Grand Rapids.

The financial institution offers an eight-week paid internship at a local nonprofit where high school juniors and seniors can learn about the need of their community and grow their leadership skills. More than 300 students from more than 100 communities are connected each year with employment. This year there are two spots available for Grand Rapids area teens.

“It is very selective, but if you just put on who exactly you are on paper and just describe yourself, you know, everyone has a chance,” said Mary Johnakech, a senior at East Kentwood High School. 

Johnakech was chosen for the program the summer after her junior year and got to work at Feeding America West Michigan. The opportunity appeared on her TikTok ‘For You’ page, and at first, she didn’t think she had a chance. 

“I just applied, and I was picked as one of the few,” she explained, adding that although she’s involved in leadership roles at school, it was different seeing how those skills are applied in the real world.

She said one of the most memorable experiences was attending a leadership summit in Washington, D.C., with the more than 300 other students that participated in the program last summer. 

“We learned about policymaking, we met with some governors and just talked about some issues that are prevalent in our community.”

Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle said the nonprofit learned a lot from Johnakech. 

“We don’t have a lot of high school people working here so having that perspective was insightful for us and we learned a lot from that,” Estelle said. “To see just the intelligence, the insightfulness, the energy of young people that are going to be the leaders in our community is really exciting.”

The student leaders application is open through the end of the day on Friday, Jan. 13. To become a student leader you must:

  • Currently be a junior or senior in high school
  • Be able to participate in an 8-week paid internship at a local nonprofit organization and work 35 hours a week*
  • Be legally authorized to work in the U.S. without sponsorship through the end of September 2023
  • Be able to participate in a week-long Student Leaders Summit in Washington, DC (July 17 – 22, 2023) (All expenses paid. This week will be part of your 8-week experience. PLEASE NOTE, students on the west coast may depart for D.C. the evening of July 16.)*
  • Be a student in good standing at your school
  • Obtain a letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor, or school administrator. Contact your recommender as soon as possible to provide them with the requirements listed at the end of the application. You will need to upload the letter no later than 11:59 pm Eastern on Friday, January 13, 2023.

The application can be online