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Two Local High Schoolers Named Bank of America Student Leaders
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By Anya Ellis, Berkeley Correspondent
Published 2 weeks ago on
July 9, 2024

Valeria Aceves, at left, and Ahsan Suhail were selected as Bank of America Student Leaders. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)

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Two high school students from Fresno County were selected as Bank of America Student Leaders and will participate in an eight-week paid summer internship at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County.

The two students, Valeria Aceves and Ahsan Suhail, are gaining a comprehensive knowledge about serving the local community and developing workplace skills while earning competitive wages.

“I feel like I’m learning a lot about the duality of trying to serve your community, while also being dedicated to a career,” said Suhail, a Clovis North High School senior. “The first half of the day is administrative work, in a corporate environment, but in the second part of the day, you see the community you are trying to serve. It’s a good firsthand experience of seeing the impact of what you do in the office translating to the community.”

Additionally, the students are getting greater financial literacy through coaching from Bank of America’s Better Money Habits curriculum.

“My family was one who did not grow up with much financial literacy. Something my dad grew up saying was, ‘There’s all the money in the world, we’ll eventually find it,’” said Aceves, who graduated from Sanger High. “These courses are teaching us to not just spend, spend, spend. They are teaching us to be more aware.”

Developing a Skilled Workforce

Fresno County’ unemployment rate lingers at 8.4%, three percentage points higher than the statewide average, according to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bank of America program aims to help youth gain workforce experience and career skills to become successful in today’s workforce. Bank of America connects more than 3,400 teens and young adults to a multitude of jobs and internships nationwide.

“By providing career and leadership development opportunities for teens, we can help develop the next generation of skilled workforce that is essential to Fresno’s long-term economic growth,” said Mark Riley, president of Bank of America Fresno and Visalia. “These students are truly exceptional, and the opportunity for them to work with a highly impactful local nonprofit like the Boys and Girls Club along with financial education can collectively prepare them for future success.”

Locally, Aceves and Suhail were awarded the opportunity to grow their skillsets after applying to the program earlier in the year.

Aceves, a first-generation American, recently graduated from Sanger High School with a 4.3 cumulative GPA. She challenged herself through rigorous AP courses while serving as the president of her school’s Spanish Club and SkillsUSA organization, participating in varsity badminton, and competing on speech and debate teams. Aceves will be attending Stanford University in the fall and plans to become a pre-med student, majoring in symbolic systems with a concentration in neuroscience.

“I remember, I raised my hand and asked to be excused for a phone call … She was telling me everything to look forward to, so I was super happy,” Aces states, recounting the moment she learned she was accepted into the Student Leaders program, “After that, I called my dad. He’s usually the first person I share good news with.”

Suhail, also a first-generation American and previous Boys and Girls Club attendee, is a rising senior at Clovis North High School with a passion for business and economics. In addition to attending multiple AP courses, gaining himself a 4.73 GPA, Suhail founded and serves as the president of the school’s Young Republican Club and worked to launch the Young Democrats Club in order to facilitate proactive and respectful debates.

Education and faith are important parts of his life, leading him to become a teaching assistant at the after-school program Kumon and volunteer more than 300 hours at his mosque. “I think the most I’m looking to get out of this is just the personal development of a lot of the kids at the club,” Suhail said. “Here, I’m able to see the personal successes of them. I’m able to see them mature and flower into an individual.”

Student Leaders Hold Summit in Washington, D.C.

Later in the summer, all Student Leaders will travel to Washington, D.C., for a week-long, all-expenses-paid, national leadership summit focused on the power of collaboration and community advocacy. The student leaders will discuss the importance of civic engagement and meet with members of Congress.

“I’m most looking forward to meeting the other kids. I know a lot of these people are like-minded and hard-working,” Aceves said. “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. I know that this networking will benefit me in the future.”

The program annually recognizes 300 or more juniors and seniors across the United States. Since the program began in Fresno in 2019, 12 local teens have been selected, including Aceves and Suhail.

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Anya Ellis,
Reporter/Researcher
Anya Ellis began working for GV Wire in July 2023. The daughter of journalists, Anya is a Fresno native and Buchanan High School graduate. She is currently at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in film and media studies and minoring in creative writing. She plans to pursue her masters in screenwriting after graduating. You can contact Anya at anya.ellis@gvwire.com.

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