Before Jersey City resident Mariam Mushtaq was selected as a 2013 Bank of America Student Leader intern, she said she was a quiet and shy student who was interested in helping others but who often lacked the gumption to assert herself.
Since being selected as one of only 225 interns this year – and one of one four from the entire state of New Jersey – Mushtaq said all that has changed.
“Now, I’m really bold and I’m not afraid to speak my mind,” said the 18-year-old 2013 Ferris High School graduate.
The paid eight-week summer internship program allows students who have demonstrated leadership skills in their high schools to further those skills by travelling to Washington, D.C. for seven days for a youth summit on Capitol Hill. As a part of the summit, the interns participate in interactive workshops, Capitol Hill briefings, and sessions on financial literacy, and leadership. Through this week on Capitol Hill, the students are supposed to gain a deeper understanding of how service creates positive change and how corporate, nonprofit, and government collaborations can revitalize communities.
‘I got so much energy from being with the other students. Now, I feel like I don’t want to waste any time.’ – Mariam Mushtaq
Mushtaq, who is now doing her internship with the Boys and Girls Club working as a tutor and teacher’s aide, said that thus far, the her week on Capitol Hill was the most memorable experience of the internship.
“You, know there were so many diverse students from all over the country, and the other interns were so interesting, and had so many experiences to share with each other that it really just opened my eyes up,” Mushtaq, a native of Pakistan, reflected. “Before I went to Washington, I kind of held myself back because I was always kind of shy. Now, I just really want to go out there and help other people and work for the community. I got so much energy from being with the other students. Now, I feel like I don’t want to waste any time.”
Bank of American launched its Student Leaders Internship in 2004 as a way to help young people gain jobs skills and to cut unemployment among recent high school graduates. Since then, more than 1,800 high school juniors and graduated seniors have participated in the program, including 50 students from New Jersey.
Mushtaq was the only student selected this year from Hudson County.
Teens continue to have the highest unemployment rate in the country, despite the end of the recession. Nationally, one out of every young adult is not in school or working.
Research indicates that teens who are gainfully employed have lower drop-out rates, are more likely to continue their education to pursue long-term career goals, and have better long-term earning potential. “Our student leaders will earn more than a paycheck this summer,” said Bank of America New Jersey President Bob Doherty in a statement. “They’ll gain valuable real world experience, while helping one of our strongest nonprofit partners address critical community needs.”
Mushtaq, who plans to study computer science at Hudson County Community College in the fall said she is not yet sure what she plans to do with her degree, but said, “I know whatever I do, I want to be doing something for the community. I want to give back and be doing something to make our community better…Now that I see there are other young people like me who want to do the same thing where they live, it gives me hope.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.