Bank of Americas Student Leaders program

Upcoming San Gorgonio High School Senior Alicia Ramirez (top right corner) with three other Inland Empire students Tyler Kim from Temecula Valley High School in Temecula, Katelyn Koeper from Chaparral High School in Murrieta and Lizbeth Luevano from La Quinta High School in Indio during a virtual meeting earlier this month while working a paid internship for Bank of Americas Student Leaders program.

Bank of America earlier this month announced that four Inland Empire high school juniors and seniors were selected as Bank of America Student Leaders, including Highland resident and San Gorgonio High School senior Alicia Ramirez, who is participating in a paid summer internship experience of leadership, civic engagement and workforce skills-building with local nonprofit OneFuture Coachella Valley.

The Student Leaders program has been around for over 15 years, according to Cathy Paredes, community relations manager for Bank of America in the Inland Empire, which has 87 financial centers in the Inland Empire with just under 40 in San Bernardino County.

Paredes said this program, “Gives our young people jobs in the community in addition to skill-building and leadership opportunities.”

Bank of America is connecting approximately 3,000 young adults nationwide to paid summer jobs through various programs such as its Financial Center Intern Program and partnerships with city summer youth employment programs across the nation through which young adults gain valuable workforce skills.

Under a non-pandemic environment students would get a full-time paid in-person internship at a local non-profit to get a chance to improve their job skills, an introduction into non-profits and how valuable non-profits are to the Inland Empire.

Students would have gotten a free trip to Washington D.C. but due to health concerns that remain in local communities due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program has been adapted to a virtual online format. Each of the Inland Empire students received a free Google laptop or Chromebook along with a $5,000 stipend.

Over 200 students applied from Riverside and San Bernardino counties for the Student Leaders Program. The three other Inland Empire students who took part in the program with Ramirez include Tyler Kim from Temecula Valley High School in Temecula, Katelyn Koeper from Chaparral High School in Murrieta and Lizbeth Luevano from La Quinta High School in Indio.

At the time of publication, week five of this six-week program was taking place. Ramirez along with other leaders across the country will participate in virtual sessions on the vital role nonprofits play in advancing community health and the importance of public-private partnerships to drive social change, while building financial acumen. They will also participate in programming that includes a collaborative, mentor-focused project, working closely with OneFuture Coachella Valley. In addition, they will virtually join 300 other Students Leaders from across the country for a dialogue on the role of citizenship and how cross-sector collaboration creates community impact.

This virtual program, “Young America Together at Home” will be delivered by the Close Up Foundation and includes discussions about finding one’s voice in order to affect change and address pressing policy issues such as the economy, healthcare, the environment and immigration.

About the internship, Ramirez said, “It’s been wonderful.”

She went on to describe how she took part in a virtual all-day meet with Stanford University. She said she loves the work she has been given especially with the project that they are working on with OneFuture Coachella Valley.

Ramirez admited though it’s been “difficult” to transition to using technology for meetings as she is used to sharing ideas and working alongside her peers and other people in the community.

Speak of community, Ramirez used to be the president of Rotary Club International’s San Bernardino chapter, which she has been part of for the past three years, according to Tim Prince, Ramirez’s Rotary club advisor. During her time as a Rotarian, she has served dinner and connected with the residents at the Ronald McDonald House in the city of Loma Linda. Later this year, Ramirez will be in charge of organizing the yearly Rotary Life Camp in the San Bernardino Mountains and the Rotary Senior Banquet.

In addition to her Rotary contributions, Ramirez is part of her Associated Student Body at San G, helping give her fellow students leadership experience. Ramirez has also started two clubs-Leadership 21, which helps unite her class and plans different events, Spartans in Action, which provides resources to students who want to be involved in the community. Ramirez also just assisted in opening a new chapter of the National Honor Society, the society aids honors kids who have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in helping them go in the right direction and give advice to the underclassman.

Prince said Ramirez is going to be “accomplishing great things.” He said students who start in Rotary are often shy when they first have to introduce themselves to members but that the majority of students he has worked with have taken up the challenge and have had a “rewarding experience,” like Ramirez.

Upon hearing the news of Ramirez’ acceptance into the Student Leaders program, San Bernardino Unified School Board President Gwendolyn Rodgers said, “It was great that the community is still connected.” She also said that this is “A positive story for San G and the districts career pathways program.”

Ramirez is still undecided about what her future endeavors may be; after graduating from San G in 2021 Ramirez plans on attending a four-year university, possibly majoring in political science and environmental studies.

In her spare time she likes bodybuilding with her dad, which she has done for the past three years. But she said trying to figure out what she can do next to impact as many people as possible is her focus. If only we had more young people like Alicia Ramirez in this world, it would be a better place and yes that is this writer’s opinion.

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