Bank of America leader program

Two recent Gilbert high school graduates and a senior are among five Valley students picked by Bank of America for its annual Student Leaders program.

Bushra Karim, who graduated from Williams Field High School in May, and Zachary Whalley, a member of Campo Verde High’s Class of 2020, were joined by Mesquite High senior Gabriela Rodriguez in the program. Both Bushra and Zac are heading to Arizona State University this fall.

The paid summer internship is aimed at giving students experience in leadership, civic engagement and workforce skills-building with local nonprofit Boys and Girls Club of the Valley. 

But in light of the pandemic, the program was adapted to a virtual format.

Bushra, the daughter of Ashraf and Sharmin Karim of Gilbert, and the four other student leaders worked the Metro Phoenix branch of the Boys and Girls Club to help them develop a “story bank” to collect and share the experiences of volunteers, staff and donors at the club. 

“Our role is to develop an efficient and explicit methodology for story-banking that can be applied to all clubs,” Bushra explained. “In addition, we have taken the initiative to interview students in the Boys and Girls Club to personally gain their perspectives.”

Originally, the program entailed a Student Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., “where we could meet student leaders across the nation,” she said. 

“The Student Leaders Summit is now Young Democracy at Home in which we met with other Student Leaders and discussed current issues and solutions,” Bushra added. “I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have been provided by Bank of America and all that they have done to accommodate for these unprecedented circumstances. What I will miss most is meeting the other Student Leaders in person, however, we have been able to form connections still through social media, group chats, and virtual discussions thanks to technology. “

While at Williams Field, Bushra was an active student, playing leadership roles in various extracurricular activities that included the National Honor Society, Best Buddies, Key Club, National English Honor Society, Swim and Dive and Mu Alpha Theta while also volunteering with the Southeast Regional Library and Muslim Volunteer Corporations. 

“I love working with my community and this program gave me the opportunity to strengthen my bond with it,” she said, adding that the Bank of America Student Leaders program “is helping solidify my own leadership, which I intend to use at the university-level while conducting research initiatives.”

After completing software engineering studies at ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, she added, “My plan as a software engineer is to develop accessible technology to accommodate for various disabilities.”

“I believe with the skills that I have and can gain with the Bank of America Student Leaders program that this is a tangible possibility. I have already learned a lot from my peers through the program and am excited to see our accomplishments.”

The internship pays $5,000 to each participant as they develop experience so they can enter adulthood with job-ready skills.

“Now more than ever, as we collectively navigate the challenges we face in our communities, Bank of America remains committed to supporting young adults of all backgrounds by connecting them to jobs, skills-building and leadership development,” said Benito Almanza, Arizona market president for the bank. “Creating opportunities for our youth to gain skills and build a network is a powerful investment in the future of our community.”

The virtual program, “Young America Together at Home” will be delivered by the Close Up Foundation and include 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.

In addition to Student Leaders, 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, which is providing 15 Phoenix students paid summer jobs.