Two Broward County college-bound students were selected as 2010 Bank of America Student Leaders.
Stephanie Jolicoeur and Khristy Nicholas, both 18, participated in the DC Leadership Summit to engage in service and examine critical issues challenging communities in America and attend Capitol Hill briefings.
Friends since the ninth grade, both are now completing their eight-week paid internships at the L.A. Lee YMCA Family Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Jolicoeur, of Oakland Park, described the summit experience as “the best week of my life.
“I learned about surviving as a leader, financial literacy; we met people from all over America and London who were doing things,” she said.
Jolicoeur continued, “People often warn not to rely on the youth, but the future really is not doomed.
“If you could hear the people there, how eloquently they spoke about their causes, you would see that the future will be bright. We are a generation that really cares and will make a difference.”
Lori Chevy, Bank of America (BofA) Broward County market president said that Jolicoeur and Nicholas are “already great leaders in their own rights.”
The Student Leaders program is one component of BofA’s signature philanthropic program, the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, according to Chevy.
“It recognizes and rewards not only student leaders, but organizations and local heroes,” said Chevy.
By the end of 2010, Chevy said, the program, which began in 2004, will have recognized more than 1400 students.
The program takes place in 45 geographic markets, which comprise 22 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and London.
In Florida, Chevy explained, the participating markets are Broward County, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach County and Tampa Bay.
Five student leaders are selected in each of the 45 participating markets.
Of the internships, Chevy said, the YMCA is an organization that BofA supports.
“All of our [Broward County] 2010 student leaders are interning in YMCAs.”
During this economic time, Chevy said, paid internships are helpful as Broward’s teen unemployment rate is 26 percent, double the national rate.
Graduates of Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Jolicoeur and Nicholas submitted essays as part of their application to the program.
Nicholas, of Pompano Beach, said that she has served as a volunteer in her church’s food ministry for the past five years, and wrote about her experience.
“It began as a high school project to earn community service hours,” she said. “A passion soon developed inside of me. It was to a point that I just stopped reporting my service hours.”
Nicholas said that her mother was “always behind me every Saturday saying ‘Khristy, bring your papers for them to sign off on,’ but that was no longer important to me.”
Nicholas spoke of what she experienced while delivering food to a family, who, she said, had not had a “real meal” in five months.
“They had been living on peanut butter and bread for all that time, and that really touched me a lot,” she said.
Nicholas described leadership as being “more about a person’s character, which is different from their personality.”
Personality, she said, is “what they want you to see, but character covers how you act when no one is watching.”
Jolicoeur said that in preparation for her essay on HIV/AIDS, she “walked up to random strangers and talked about the disease; asked them whether they knew someone who engaged in unprotected sex.”
Jolicoeur described a leader as “someone who is willing to stand up for a good cause even if the majority is against it.
“Like [President Barack] Obama with health care or public education,” she continued. “It’s so expensive to reform something that people are against, but you know that’s what you are supposed to do. He knew it was not going to be easy, but that’s what leaders do.”
Nicholas, on the pre-med track, has a scholarship to attend Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. this fall.
“My major is human biology, but I have not yet decided on a specific area,” she said.
Jolicoeur, seeking a degree in communications, will attend Florida State University.
“I want to work in education. I grew up in the public education system and really want to improve it,” she said.