Geselle, joining United Way for the summer as an intern through The Jaggar Community Fellows Program at Adelphi’s Center for Career and Professional Development, reflects on her experience at the Bank of America Professional Development and Community Service Day.
I arrived to see the familiar faces of my United Way co-workers helping set up the event amidst dozens of fresh-faced interns from countless agencies across Long Island. As everyone was getting settled for breakfast, each intern was given an ice breaker activity, which was a bingo board that could only be completed with the help of asking others for a random fact about themselves. This allowed me to get to know a number of the interns there very quickly, learning about them and who they worked for, and while I only managed to fill up one row on the board, it was fun introducing myself to so many new people.
Lorraine Aycock, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business & Community Engagement at Bank of America, and United Way of Long Island Board Member, said that the program is part of a national effort by the Bank’s Charitable Foundation. “On Long Island, [Bank of America], with the help of the Nassau and Suffolk Youth Bureaus, was able to partner with United Way to connect with local nonprofits and key stakeholders, and offer the program to their interns working for the summer,” she explained. Regarding the importance of the event, Aycock said that “granting professional employment development to our youth will help encourage them to stay focused on getting a career, which will bring a positive impact for their future.”
After an introductory greeting by Bank of America Long Island President Robert Isaksen, the event began with a career planning and preparation presentation with the Senior Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Human Resources, Mary Ellen King. With a smile and plenty of handshakes to all the interns, King spoke about first impressions in interviews, as well as how to decide on which career is the best fit, and how to network with potential agencies and individuals via personal connections and social media.
After a short break, Bank of America’s Senior Vice President Cathy Duque and Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor James Lubin gave a detailed presentation on financial literacy, showing us how to set up a simple monthly budget plan and practice healthy financial habits, as well as explaining how retirement plans and savings accounts really work. Interns also got to share some of their experiences regarding how they handle their money, with a few offering good advice on how to save with limited net payments.
After lunch, the interns were treated to a presentation by Angelina Darrisaw, founder of professional development consulting company C-Suite Coach, during which she talked about the ins-and-outs of creating, establishing, and defining a personal brand. Darrisaw discussed with the group how they saw brands and how they could begin developing or improving their own, and stressed how a strong and consistent brand, especially on social media, can potentially help them secure a job.
Madelyn Santana, an intern at Hispanic Brotherhood, said she had learned quite a lot from the professional development presentations, especially from the financial literacy segment. “I [got] to learn more about saving money for any emergency that I [could] have,” Santana remarked. Another intern from Hispanic Brotherhood, Nelson Checo, felt the same way, and stated that he overall thought the professional development was “a good experience on how to meet other people and work on projects as a group.”
Professional development wasn’t the only thing the interns got from the event. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to help Maureen Mantesta and her team from Birthday Wishes of Long Island prepare birthday boxes for more than 100 homeless children. Each intern wrapped up a cardboard box, which they then filled with birthday goodies such as party hats and noisemakers. Many of the interns, including myself, had a bit of trouble trying to wrap up the boxes, but we nonetheless had a lot of fun completing each one.
Thomas Ciravolo, a current intern at the Town of Huntington’s Summer Youth Connection, remarked that the community service project was his favorite part of the event. “Through the project we were all able to help kids that would’ve otherwise not been able to celebrate because of their situation,” said Ciravolo. “It was great that we all came together to contribute to the greater good.” Santana and Checo also spoke highly of the Birthday Wishes community project, with Checo commenting on how the interns “were helping [one another]” and how they “were giving to people that needed [their help].”
“To me, the event was a great success, as many interns did not only come out with knowledge that they hadn’t previously known, but also left feeling good knowing that they also got to help those in need,” said Trish Rivers, United Way’s Community Impact Program Associate. As one of the main organizers of this event, Rivers explained that the process all depended on United Way working with the Nassau and Suffolk Youth Bureaus to see which agencies were able to be involved and which interns were able to go. And after all the effort, Rivers commented that she was more than happy that they got to take something important from the event.
“So far, [the program] has proven to be a valuable investment for us,” stated Aycock. “This event has really helped in reinforcing the Bank’s commitment to developing productive citizens for the future, both personally and professionally.”
As for me, the Professional Development and Community Service Day did prove to be more than just a day of seminars: I got to learn new budgeting techniques, acquire a whole new perspective on how to make a brand and network for myself, and had the chance to help the community at the end of the day. Coupled with getting the opportunity to work and learn with so many new people with vastly different backgrounds, the event at Bank of America was a day to remember.