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Beating the odds of a 2% acceptance rate, senior Peony Tse earned a spot in the Bank of America’s Student Leaders summer program. The program connects students to jobs in order to familiarize them with nonprofits, aiming to instill a passion to improve their local community. Peony interned at the Vanderbilt YMCA in Manhattan for eight weeks which included an all expense paid trip to Washington D.C. for the annual Student Leadership Summit.
Peony familiarized herself with all aspects of the YMCA summer camp, ranging from administrative jobs to direct interaction with the campers. Her experience further cultivated her desire to “work in youth development and run programs dedicated to helping youth achieve their full potential.”
Through her internship, she was able to help create a college contacts list for the Vanderbilt YMCA’s high school programs in order to set up college information sessions for high school seniors.
Peony explained, “[The first step is] educating students about the wide range of options that are available to them. This, in turn, will set them on paths with greater opportunities in life.”
At the week long summit in D.C., Peony and 200 other students gathered for workshops and projects in order to learn “how government, the private and public sectors intersect to address community issues while they connect with peers, and find additional inspiration to strengthen their communities.”
The students held a Red Cross service project in order to assemble kits filled with basic necessities as well as handwritten thank-you notes for veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
“You would be surprised what a small item like a toothbrush can do for someone. These basic necessities, though small and usually taken for granted, can make someone feel human again,” said Peony.
The Summit aimed to build globally involved student leaders and made Peony not want “to be someone who waits on the sidelines for someone else to make a change. I know I am fully capable of doing that myself.”
Peony’s supervisor and the director of the YMCA’s teen leadership program, Candy Halikas, shared, “We live in a world where working together and building community is important, now more than ever… Being a teen leader is important. Young people look up to you, adults respect and learn from you. You’re a vital part of the community that gives back, not fulfilling a stereotype of a lazy apathetic teen. Peony played an invaluable role in reaching the YMCA’s mission.”