In the beginning of my internship with Bank of America and Communities In Schools of Jacksonville I listened to Chief Operating Officer Mr. Leon Baxton passionately refer to all of the kids in the summer program as "our kids" and "potential achievers." The moment was striking to me but I couldn't explain why. Although I couldn't understand it, I was able to make more sense of the feeling as my internship continued and I underwent different experiences that helped me develop more as a person.
After working in the CIS Jacksonville headquarters in downtown for one week, I was excited to transition to directly interacting with kids at Woodland Acres Elementary school. My responsibilities included working in the computer lab and game room to provide enriching activities for the young students to complete. Moreover, I would provide adult supervision during lunch, field trips, and at the end of the day to ensure the safety of all kids. Initially, I was unused to the fast-paced nature of working with energetic little kids. However, after I adjusted to my new routine I was able to find immense joy in the way the kids carried out each task with refreshing vitality.
Halfway through my internship, I traveled with the other four Jacksonville Student Leaders to attend a leadership summit in Washington, DC sponsored by Bank of America. There I met 214 of the most caring and incredible kids my age that had the same desire to improve their communities. During the five day summit I was able to sharpen my leadership skills and improve my political efficacy by participating in workshops and listening to keynote speakers.
The statement from speaker Wes Moore, "when it’s time for you to leave a school, job, home, or even this world, make sure that it mattered you were even there," specifically made me reflect on the idea of legacy. This notion made me wonder if I was making a difference and if it mattered that I was even there. I continued to struggle with these questions until the very last day when I started leaving the kids I had been working with for the past two months. The tentative smiles on the first day had slowly turned into joyous shouts of "Mr. Z!" in the mornings but today they had faded into melancholy goodbyes. The students in my class that I initially didn't know the names of had suddenly become kids I could easily identify by the sound of their voice. This had made me realize that I wasn't surrounded by students and co-workers, I was surrounded by a strong support system that functioned like a family. When I said my last goodbye and wondered if it mattered, I had found the answer in the warm salty tears streaming down my face. Having the opportunity to become a Bank of America Student Leader and working with a great nonprofit such as CIS is a memory that I will always cherish and be thankful for.