BALTIMORE — To Elijah Miles, a successful future begins with a list of elementary, but important habits that are necessary as he enters college and then the business world: Offer a steady handshake, but not too strong; lose any slang his speech may contain; and learn how to use a spreadsheet and present professional and well thought out posts to social media websites.
Elijah, 18, a graduate of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, is one of five local teens selected as student leaders who received paid eight-week summer internships at nonprofit organizations.
“I thought I understood how things worked. How businesses worked, but I didn’t,” Elijah said. “Now, I do understand and I’m enjoying my internship.”
In fact, Elijah turned down an opportunity to attend the prestigious Morehouse College this fall so that he could participate in the internship, which he said is helping to prepare him even more for college as well as the world that awaits him after he earns a degree. He now plans to attend Morgan State University in September.
“All of my life, I wanted to help my community, not just my family and friends, but my whole neighborhood,” Elijah said. “I’ve learned that the best way to accomplish that is through education.”
Out of 225 civic-minded high school seniors and juniors from around the country, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation selected Elijah and four others to participate in the program.
Elijah’s internship is with the Baltimore chapter of Teach for America, which recruits committed recent college graduates and professionals to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools.
Teach for America also trains and develops members to have an immediate impact on the students they instruct.
“I’ve been able to see how a nonprofit operates,” Elijah said. “This is an experience everyone should have.”
Elijah’s summer has included attending a week long Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., where he participated in a service learning project and interactive workshops, including Capitol Hill briefings and sessions about financial, education and leadership development skills.
“These programs give us a deeper understanding of how our service can create a positive change and how collaboration between nonprofits, the government and the corporate world helps to revitalize our communities,” Elijah said.
Internships such as these are vital, according to Bank of America officials.
Despite gains in the overall job market, teens still have the highest unemployment rate. One out of every seven young people is not in school or working.
In the Baltimore metropolitan area the unemployment rate in 2011 among teenagers 16 to 19 years old was 17.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report.
Research indicates that teens who are gainfully employed have lower dropout rates, are more likely to continue their education to pursue long-term career goals and ultimately show an increase in lifetime earning potential, program officials said.
“Teens are once again facing a tough time finding summer jobs,” said David Millman, the Maryland and Baltimore market president for Bank of America.
“Our student leaders program provides them the opportunity to earn and learn, while increasing the capacity of nonprofits to serve critical community needs.”