Of 225 students around the country to be chosen for Bank of America's Student Leaders program, nine were from Hillsborough County.
Students were given a paid eight week internship with a local non-profit organization and were treated to a trip to Washington D.C. for the National Student Leadership Summit earlier this month. Robinson high school's Jenny Chen was one of the nine Hillsborough County students selected and was amazed at the opportunity to participate in the program.
"When I saw a flyer for this program I almost didn't think it was real," Chen said. "The program exceeded my expectations in every way. The Capitol Hill sessions were informative and insightful. It would be really hard to choose a favorite moment because the whole thing was a once in a lifetime experience."
Chen's internship is yet to be concluded and has been with the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa. While there, her duties have varied but for the most part she is working behind the scenes with production staff to see how a show comes together.
"I've been helping build sets which is something I've never done before," Chen said. "In just the last few days I've learned how professionals combine voice, dance and instrumentation. I'm working on my own play so the experience has been very valuable."
Newsome high school's Nick Rodriguez has been interning at the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa Bay as a camp counselor, essentially overseeing, working, and playing with kids aged 5 through 12 throughout the day.
"It really is amazing getting to work with these kids," Rodriguez said. "They so easily look up for role models and inspirational figures and I really feel like I have been able to step up to that role and serve as a role model to many of the kids. They inspire me and in turn, I feel like I'm making a positive impact in their lives."
Rodriguez is recent graduate and will go on to the University of Miami to study computer science and criminology. For him, the most important thing to take away from the experience was hope for the future.
"The leadership summit made me realize the power that young leaders like myself have in our communities," Rodriguez said. "Hearing about all the amazing things the other students have already done in their lives really gives me hope for our generation and that the future is in good hands."