Summer as a Student Leader

Authored by Kaela Ryan ’19

This past summer I was lucky enough to be a Bank of America Student Leader. I worked a seven-week internship at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and went on a weeklong summit to Washington D.C. with other Bank of Picture1America Student Leaders.

As an intern at the Food Bank, I worked in the outreach department – the department that connects people with resources meant to alleviate hunger for life – not just for one meal. I worked alongside the help center where people called and the food bank staff connected them to resources and public benefit programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps or Medicaid. On any given day, I found myself submitting food stamp applications from the benefits outreach counselors (they go into the community to connect people to benefits), calling homeless clients or those without a permanent address about their mail, updating directory listings used to refer clients to food pantries, or scanning applications to be stored online.

I learned a tremendous amount from this internship, from what the Farm Bill is (legislation that regulates agricultural policies and SNAP) to how crucial food stamps can be to help get someone back on their feet. My boss Director of Benefits Outreach Tiffany Scruggs and all the other Food Bank staff taught me something every day and I emerged from the internship more knowledgeable about poverty and what needs to be done to address it.

Picture2During the internship, I also worked with four others, a mix of high school seniors and college freshmen all from the Cleveland-area. Together, we went to Washington D.C. for the summit and were met by student leaders from across the U.S. On this trip, we heard from speakers such as civil rights activist and organizer Bernard Lafayette and one of the creators of Rachel’s Challenge, explored the city, met with our representatives, and discussed key to effectively communicate ideas and tolerate opposing ones.

The other Cleveland interns and I met with Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman’s staffers. This was an incredible experience and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share my opinions with elected officials and to hear from their staffers about legislation they are currently working on.

The week in D.C. was extremely powerful. I found myself much more capable of working with others and I learned to not communicate my beliefs in such a polarizing way.

I am thankful to have participated in the Bank of America Student Leaders Program. It was an amazing experience, especially going into my senior year at Hathaway Brown School, where I am expected to have an idea of what I want my future to look like. This opportunity reaffirmed that I want a career where I can give back. This summer, I met so many incredible people, and I learned so much about leadership and how I can best make my mark on the world.

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