West Bloomfield resident Vanessa Wong spent her summer getting the kind of education you won't find in a classroom.
The International Academy High School senior was among five metro Detroit students selected by The Bank of America Charitable Foundation to take part in the 2013 Student Leaders program. Juniors and seniors from around the country participated in paid, eight-week summer internships at local nonprofit organizations and a weeklong Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.
At Focus:Hope, Wong helped out in a number of departments, doing tasks that ranged from data entry to traveling with middle school-aged kids on field trips. The work helped broaden her perspective, she said, and made her more empathetic.
"It's definitely made me more aware of the fact that you can help people without necessarily being in a non-profit," she added. "Whatever I do, I want to try and impact people for the better."
Wong said she was also deeply inspired by her week at the Leadership Summit.
"The most memorable thing was meeting everyone," she said. "I've never met a group of high school students who were that encouraging, supportive and welcoming."
Wong will also take some of the lessons she learned back to school with her this fall. "It has given me ideas for our community service club," she said.
According to a press release, Bank of America started the Student Leaders program to help address the high rate of teen unemployment: "Research indicates that teens who are gainfully employed have lower drop-out rates, are more likely to continue their education to pursue long-term career goals and ultimately show an increase in lifetime earning potential."