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Sarasota Tuesday, Jul. 27, 2021 4 months ago

Sarasota student leader learns value of volunteering

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A Booker High School graduate was named one of 300 Bank of America Student Leaders.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

When most students began virtual learning, they were concerned with how they could best absorb the material.

However, one Booker High School student’s worry was not for herself but those younger than her. 

Chloe Bernal, a 2021 graduate, began virtually tutoring elementary school students to ease their stress and provide academic support for those who were struggling to learn virtually. 

“When I met with the kids, I saw how great of a need there was for them to have somebody to guide them through their programs,” Bernal said. “So getting to kind of be a big sibling to them and help them excel was amazing.” 

Aside from her tutoring work, Bernal also was a College is for Every Student Brilliant Pathways Ambassador, which means she worked in Booker’s college room to help students receive help filling out applications and financial paperwork.

When she noticed there were little to no materials in Spanish, she translated them and handed them out to English as a second language students who in turn began visiting the college help room. 

For her efforts, Bernal is one of two area teenagers selected as a Bank of America Student Leader, a paid summer internship. Maria Alonzo, a graduate of Manatee High School, was named the other local student leader. 

Bank of America partners with local nonprofits to sponsor 300 paid internships throughout the U.S. for rising high school seniors and recent graduates. The student leader program was started in 2004, but the Sarasota/Manatee branch is in its fourth year.

The two local graduates work closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County to develop leadership and workforce skills while gaining firsthand knowledge of the role nonprofits play in the community. Plus, they make a competitive rate of $17 an hour. 

“I didn’t have internship experience until college, but this allows students from diverse backgrounds to receive true leadership training and prepares them for the future,” said Jamie Kahns, Sarasota/Manatee Bank of America market executive. “It’s a true opportunity to serve, inspire and change.” 

In her internship, Bernal has met with the nonprofit’s leaders and now works on the team enrichment program to help recruit new members. She is working to create an ambassadors program for the nonprofit to advocate for the various programs and services it provides. 

“Personally, I just feel so enriched because I am actually doing something to help my community,” Bernal said. “Now I know how much of a need there is and so I’m always looking for where else I can volunteer.” 

Aside from the internship, students participate in a weeklong summit to learn about government and business functionings and how they can impact nonprofits. Industry leaders will speak to the students and host a mock Capitol Hill day. 

Bernal said the internship has taught her the importance of stepping out of her comfort zone, a lesson she will carry with her in the future. 

“This experience has taught me the power of just getting out of my shell and how many doors can open for you when you do that,” Bernal said.

She plans to attend the University of Florida in the fall to study biology on a pre-dental track. And, she already has been offered a job at the Boys & Girls Clubs next summer. 

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