Bank of America's Student Leaders program brings high school students from around the country together to learn more about non-profit work and leadership. The eight week program pairs each student up with a local non-profit, and culminates in a week-long summit in Washington D.C.
Patch spoke with Catherine Marris, one of the Bank of America Student Leader program participants and a Brookline High School graduate. She has been working with the Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain.
Patch: Tell us a little about yourself
Marris: My name is Catherine, I graduated from Brookline High School this past spring, I’ll be going to the college in the fall.
When I was 15, I started having this passion for community service. It was inspired by my teachers, my peers, everyone around me. Ever since then, it’s been kind of my goal to be as involved in non-profits as possible.
How did you find out about the Bank of America program?
I heard about it from a mentor of mine at the American Red Cross. I do a lot of work with them, and she encouraged me to apply to this program, she wrote a recommendation for me. I just had a fabulous experience: seven weeks getting to work with a non-profit, which has always been my dream. But then also, one week which was a trip to DC--which is a fabulous city. I thought it’d be a great learning experience and a great way to get summer job.
What, in your own words, is the BofA program about? What’s the best part?
The program is about, basically, bringing student leaders from all over the country together, to see how the world of Non-profit, business, government and individual interact with each other. Basically, it’s a program designed to give you a real-world experience working, but also learning and interacting with each other. I think it’s a great experience because--being from Massachusetts, I traveled a little bit through the United States, but not a lot--I got to meet people from Texas, from Florida, from California, from big cities, small towns, just from all over. I think they want to bring that diversity of experience together for one week to make change together.
Have you made progress toward change?
I think so. I’m working within an organization that’s doing so much. I kind of hope to measure my impacts by how much I can help them, by what they’re doing in the community--and they’re doing a fabulous job. That’s how I measure my progress. Also, in terms of how much I’ve learned from the experience, and how I can bring it back to my own community and the community I’ll be moving to when I go to college.
Where are you going to college?
I’m doing a dual-degree program between Columbia University in New York, and a university in France. So, for the next two years, I go to France, and I come back for my Junior and Senior in Columbia, so I can get a degree from each institution.
What are you taking away from the leadership experience?
I think before it kind of felt like little bit of a lonely road, just in terms of I was able to find some other students in town who were interested in public service, but a lot of people my own age seemed pretty much uninterested, even though what happens in government, what happens in non-profit, what happens in business has a huge impact on their own lives.
So just spending a week with 220 other people who felt the same way, and had different backgrounds politically, or in terms of their religion or ethnicity or where they came from, they still have that same energy to create change, that really inspired me. Just in terms of the speakers who we got to meet over that week through Bank of America, I think I learned a lot about what it takes to become a leader and to create change.
Would you recommend the program to other kids?
I would definitely recommend all kids in Brookline try for this program. I mean, it’s kind of competitive, but you can’t beat having a summer job where you get paid, but you also get to meet some fabulous people from all over the country--not only youth, but adults who are doing incredible things. We got to meet our elected representatives, such as Senator Scott Brown. It was an incredible opportunity you don’t get anywhere else. So, I would definitely recommend anyone interested in working public service to apply for the program.
What would you recommend for kids here in Brookline who wants to get involved now?
Well, there are a lot of resources at the Brookline High School, first of all. So, when you get to the high school level, you should kind of investigate those and see what you’re interested in. I would also find out from some of the bigger organizations, just go and volunteer yourself, say at the American Red Cross or any non-profit you might find, in Brookline or in Boston. I know I was rare in that I ventured out into Boston and other neighborhoods to look for community service experiences.
I think that’s really valuable, Brookline’s a wonderful town, but it’s really great to get some other experiences as well, to see how other communities are different. So, I would just say take the initiative, use Google, use the internet, talk to your friends, talk to your teachers--that’s what I did, that’s how I learned about most of the opportunities that were available. I think you kind of build a base from there and learn what you’re interested in.
What are you doing for the rest of the summer?
For the rest of the summer, I’m actually continuing my work with a non-profit through Bank of America, pretty much right until I leave for college. But it is a lot of fun. I worked for every single week, the organization I worked with holds festivals for the community in Jamaica Plain, so it’s a lot of fun going to those. That’s pretty much what I’m going, but I hope to see some friends and family before I leave.
What did you miss about Brookline while you were away?
I will always miss Brookline in terms of they’ve given me an enormous amount of support, and in terms of encouraging me to follow my passions: I was always able to balance my school work, sports, and time doing community service. Brookline, this high school particular really enabled me to do that. I had a lot of teachers who were supporting me, who were mentors. I think, even a lot of other kids in the program had a harder route to get there. They were either in a town that wasn’t as supportive, or they had a harder time finding opportunities, so, I think that is one thing I will always miss about Brookline--how close-knit the community is, and how much they care about their kids.
Anything to add?
Just wnat to really thank Bank of America for the experience. They set up this interview, but also the entire summer. I would have never afforded to go to D.C. for a week on my own, and I would never have been able to meet the leaders in government, or also the students that I met without them, so, they have provided a lot of support for me this summer.
Thanks for talking to me, hope you have a great summer, and good luck in New York and Paris.
Thank you so much.
Some more about Marris and some of her fellow volunteers from Bank of America:
- Catherine Marris, a Chestnut Hill resident and recent graduate of Brookline High School, is interning at Hyde Square Task Force. Catherine has held leadership positions as the president of the Brookline High School American Red Cross Club and as the co-director of the Brookline Literacy Partnership. She was also very involved at Brookline High School as a mentor and writing center coach.
- Marc-Daniel Paul, a Brockton resident and recent graduate of Brockton High School, is interning at the Boys and Girls Club. Marc-Daniel tutored students in math, English and science at Brockton High School and through the School on Wheels program.
- Thechena Theodore, a Cambridge resident and rising senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, is interning at Teach for America. Thechena has served as a reading buddy at the Boys and Girls Club of Boston and a volunteer at the Cambridge Senior Center.
- Anay Baez, a Boston resident and recent graduate of Boston Community Leadership Academy, is interning at Hyde Square Task Force. Anay has been a peer leader at the West End Boys and Girls Club and an active participant in the annual Walk for Hunger.
- Shaq Alberts, a Hyde Park resident and rising senior at Codman Academy, is interning at Artists for Humanity. Shaq has volunteered for the Institute of Contemporary Art as a member of the Teen Council and the Codman Climate Action Network, an organization that offers solutions for maintaining an environmentally friendly community.