How Bank of America’s program teaches interns about leadership, setting stage for their future

Dakauri Pinckney found out about Bank of America‘s internship program the way only Gen Z would: He was scrolling through TikTok when he came across an influencer talking about it.

“It sounded interesting, so I applied for it,” said the senior at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone. “I didn’t have anything lined up for the summer. The experience has been really nice. I met a lot of amazing people.”

Pinckney is a participant in the multinational bank’s local Student Leaders program, one of the more distinctive approaches to business-supported workforce development initiatives in the state. He was one of just a handful of high school upperclassmen selected for the program’s eight-week internship, which places students in paid roles at local nonprofit organizations.

Alberto Garofalo.

Alberto Garofalo, New Jersey’s market president for Bank of America, said that, through programs like this one, the next-generation leaders in the Garden State’s workforce get to partake in civic engagement while also developing practical workforce experience.

It’s also seen as pivotal for a business keen on recruiting the best and brightest of the next generation.

“With any hope, they’ll come back and join us in one of the careers we offer across many different skill-sets,” Garofalo said.

Although far from choosing between long-term career prospects, Pinckney is coming away from the bank’s summer program feeling positive about the opportunities the organization created. Most memorably for him, he was able to tag along on a July venture to Washington, D.C., for a summit featuring students aspiring to leadership roles.

Pinckney said that trip — and the friends he made there — was a highlight. That was despite initial apprehensions he admits to having: He wasn’t sure if he was nerdy enough for it.

“But they were nerds in the best way, just so passionate and inspiring,” he said. “Honestly, I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want to leave.”

Pinckney, who was raised in East Orange and is active in an anti-gun violence organization called Not Orange, has been placed in an internship at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark as part of the program. He said one of the biggest takeaways has been learning how to speak to the youth there genuinely, as equals — instead of talking down to them, which he suspects most people do.

Bank of America’s program has students such as Pinckney working with local Boys & Girls Clubs across four New Jersey counties.

“(Pinckney) is a perfect example of someone shining in the program,” Garofalo said. “He’s engaged, making a difference and asking the right questions. … But, really, all the students are doing a great job, and getting a broad exposure in addressing society’s biggest challenges. The feedback we hear is that they’re extraordinarily reinvigorated.”

Frankly, the bank’s leaders look at it this way: Having a pipeline of promising next-generation leaders warmer to their brand is nice, but so is just giving local youth a broader sense of the possibilities, potential and impact they can make in the state.

“We can all agree these youth are the future — and I feel much better for the future after getting to know these students, because they’re brilliant, passionate, driven and, my goodness, they’re so accomplished,” Garofalo said.

This particular program, which was started in 2004, has engaged thousands of students across the bank’s national footprint.

“It’s impacting a lot of lives,” Garofalo said. “So, it’s incredibly rewarding to know we’re investing and partnering in what we believe will be the future leaders of this organization. And it’s a responsibility we all share in Corporate America.”