The Bank of America Charitable Foundation this summer awarded five Providence area teenagers paid eight-week internships at the Providence and Pawtucket Boys and Girls Clubs. The 2012 Student Leaders program is part of the bank’s philanthropic commitment and this year aligned 225 high school juniors and seniors with jobs at nonprofits nationwide.
William F. Hatfield, Rhode Island president for Bank of America, talks about the program and the charitable foundation’s efforts to help Rhode Island teens and other residents.
PBN: Why is giving Rhode Island teens employment so important – what does it do beyond giving them a paycheck?
HATFIELD: Teens are disproportionately affected by the recession with all-time high unemployment rates and Rhode Island is even higher than the national average at 28.3 percent. By participating in the Student Leaders program, local teens…gain valuable employment training and life experience. The internships help young people acquire marketable skills and build their network and resume. The students also attend a weeklong Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in July. Through participation in a service learning project and a series of interactive workshops, including Capitol Hill briefings, sessions on financial education and leadership development skills, the students also gain a deeper understanding of how service creates positive change and how corporate, nonprofit and government collaboration revitalize communities.
PBN: Why did you select the Boys and Girls club as the business/nonprofit to which the teens will be employed?
HATFIELD: Bank of America offers this opportunity to organizations with which we have longstanding relationships, and whose programs and leadership we are very familiar with. It is critical that this experience provides each student with a unique role and leadership-oriented learning experience. We are confident that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Providence and Pawtucket will provide these very special students with rewarding internships.
PBN: Why are teens a population of interest for BOA to help in this way?
HATFIELD: Preparing high school students for leadership is an essential component of our community investments. We also recognize the pressing issue of finding youth employment as large numbers of young people search for work experience that will translate into long-term success. Our Student Leaders program connects young leaders with employment that helps to give them the necessary tools and resources they need to advance. This program demonstrates Bank of America’s longstanding belief that investing in leadership and fostering a culture of service is a way to revitalize the economic and social health of communities. Our Student Leaders program helps nurture and develops the next generation of leaders by providing leadership training and a chance to support a local nonprofit that gives back each and every day.
PBN: What other programs/resources does BOA have for teens?
HATFIELD: Bank of America is committed to helping teens succeed by providing them with the necessary tools and resources to do so. In addition to the Student Leaders program, we participate and support many organizations that focus on youth in Rhode Island. We are one of the founding sponsors of the Providence After School Alliance (PASA) which provides inner-city youth with quality programs after school including computer programming, horseback riding and robotics. We also support Junior Achievement, College Visions Year Up and City Year whose missions focus on mentoring and academic achievement.
PBN: What are other important areas of focus for the BOA foundation?
HATFIELD: Our communities are of tremendous importance to us and we work very hard to ensure their prosperity. We focus our philanthropy on community development, workforce development and education, and critical needs – housing, jobs, and hunger. Through community development we offer home owner education programs, accessible options for affordable housing and revitalize communities in need. Our workforce development and education efforts focus on connecting individuals with employment opportunities and the resources they will need to succeed in a career. We partner with and support Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island who is a leader in education and job readiness. For those with critical needs, we supply hunger relief, food access, and emergency shelter to organizations such as Crossroads Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, both of which we have been a supporter for many years.