Three Nashville-area students with the Bank of America Student Leaders program spent their summer working in their community to provide better resources for students facing obstacles getting into college.
Rising senior Omkar Upadhye and recent graduates Deanthony Dixon and Paa Mensah interned with local nonprofit the Oasis Center, where they worked on projects and led events.
Daryl Curry, program manager for the Oasis Center, said the students did so well he’d be willing to have at least one of them back as an employee someday.
“I mean, thank you, Bank of America, for really giving us some great leaders to work with and for allowing us to do this program,” Curry said.
The Oasis Center and its College Connection program work to serve underprivileged students with a variety of services, including supports to help students get into the college of their choice.
Curry said the student leaders this year worked on a long-term project to further that cause while also visiting summer programs to run a class for a morning and talk to middle school students about the mindset they need for high school to get ready for college.
The leaders were tasked with calling up admissions officers at area schools and asking them questions about the supports they have available for students who are in the country illegally, students from low-income families and those facing other obstacles to college access.
They then recorded that information, which the Oasis Center will use to ensure that it can most effectively help students use all the available resources to get into college.
Upadhye, who attends Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, said the work he did with the Oasis Center was eye-opening.
“That was one of the most eye-opening projects we did, you know. You kind of get to know a lot about certain aspects of a school just by hearing the tone when you get a response, the emails and whatnot,” Upadhye said.
“You know, most schools, what I was really surprised by, they really have good support for first-generation people and kids, but when it comes to undocumented children, it’s really rough,” he continued. “Because first of all, they don’t get any funding from the government. … Even though they’ve been living in the States for so long, they still don’t have the same opportunities that someone who, you know, has a passport, right?”
He said the experience, especially meeting students from across the country during a summit for student leaders, was transformative to his views and encourages him to continue looking for ways to help his communities going forward, especially in financial literacy.
Upadhye and his fellow interns were three of four students selected as Bank of America Student Leaders for the Nashville area this year.
Upadhye was considered an excellent candidate, according to Bank of America Nashville President Tyson Moore, due to his work on financial literacy clubs at his own school and in middle schools. Moore said that drive to act when he saw that Tennessee has lower financial literacy rates than the national average won him his spot as a student leader.
The other leaders were Dixon and Mensah, who graduated this year from LEAD Academy High School and Hillsboro High School, respectively, and Elizabeth Mealio, a rising senior at Harpeth High School in Kingston Springs.
“I am just so impressed, and I feel so honored that we can offer a Student Leaders program not only here in Nashville but across the country,” Moore said.
He added that it’s the 18th year the bank has run the program, which has put 4,300 students nationwide through paid internships.
Moore said it’s a program that has a great impact on students who go through it, but also the people whom they help along the way.
“They learn so much more about the community, right, and what are the needs of the communities?” Moore said. “So, you know, a lot of times we’re all in our own bubbles, and we don’t necessarily know all the things that happen across a community, and the number of people that are in need, and we talked about the barriers for some people to succeed. And that’s why this program is so important, and why the Oasis Center, I think, does such a great job.”
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