Bank of America has announced that three students from the Baltimore region achieved the distinct honor of being named to the company’s Student Leaders program.

The students, all of whom excel in and out of the classroom, will participate in the Student Leaders program and will work with the CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) Campaign of Maryland, a nonprofit based in Baltimore that promotes economic advancement for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families in the city and throughout the state.

Interestingly, all three local students joining Bank of America’s program this summer are from Howard County. Emmanuella Osei, a rising freshman at the University of Maryland Baltimore County; Oliver Song, a rising senior at Wilde Lake High School; and Zikora Akanegbu, a rising senior at Marriotts Ridge High School, were named this year’s Student Leaders.

Janet Currie, president of the Bank of America Greater Maryland, said the program seeks to give students a holistic experience of how government, business and nonprofit entities work collectively for the betterment of society.

“We try to give them a really holistic experience, and certainly as we partner with our nonprofits, we make sure they are meaningful work experiences for them so they can continue to grow professionally as well as understand how the intersection of those [industries] work,” Currie said.

“We look for those students who are going above and beyond what is traditionally required of high school juniors and seniors. What they are accomplishing in terms of giving to others and elevating issues that are important… those are the things we look for in our student leaders.”

For admission to the program, students had to apply. The criteria for the program was based more on involvement in the community than it was the students’ GPAs, according to Currie.

“When we evaluate the applications, we are not looking for grades. We don’t even ask about GPAs, we don’t ask about grades,” she said, adding that she has met all three of the students in person.

“We are looking for students who have demonstrated leadership and civic engagement. We are looking for students who want to be community leaders, either within their school or within their communities – very often, both.”

As part of the Student Leaders Program, students will engage in an eight-week paid internship, working closely with local nonprofits to develop leadership and workforce skills, in addition to participating in a week-long virtual leadership summit. Nationally, a total of 300 students are selected as Bank of America Student Leaders every year since the program began in 2004.

Osei, a native of Ghana, moved to the U.S. in 2015 with big aspirations. In high school, she founded Rise Up Mentorship, a program supporting minority students pursuing rigorous courses; Osei personally mentored two students during her senior year.

In recognition of her efforts in promoting educational equity in the Rise Up Mentorship program, Osei was recently awarded the Princeton Prize.

“To me, being recognized as a Student Leader means that I can fulfill my passions of giving back to my community,” said Osei, who will be attending UMBC in the fall. “As a CASH Youth Ambassador, I’m privileged to be learning about finances and sharing this valuable information with my family, friends and peers.”

Song served as student government president of Wilde Lake High School, a capacity that gave him the opportunity to communicate student voices and concerns to elected officials. Throughout his term, he led a COVID-19 student town hall, served as a member of the Student Committee for Equity for Howard County Public Schools, and has testified for multiple bills at the local, state and national levels.

“As a Student Leader, I am honored to learn and teach about financial education through the CASH Campaign of Maryland,” Song said. “In a world where the numbers that describe you are increasingly relevant, teaching our communities to survive is a necessity.”

Akanegbu founded GenZHER, a digital media platform created to spread awareness about societal issues from the perspectives of Gen Z girls. She also serves as the Head of Events of her school’s chapter of Girl Up, a female empowerment campaign founded by the UN Foundation. Akanegbu was recently honored as Maryland’s only 2022 Diana Award recipient for her social action and humanitarian efforts, among other awards

“I am incredibly honored to be recognized as a Student Leader,” Akanegbu said. “As a Youth Ambassador for The CASH Campaign of Maryland, I have been able to learn about finances to educate my friends and peers about different financial education topics.”

Demetrius Dillard
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