Kristiana Dimitrov

Kristiana Dimitrov, graduate of Renaissance High School for the Arts and participant in the Bank of America Student Leaders Program, in Long Beach on Friday, July 10, 2020.

Kristiana Dimitrov, a Renaissance High School 2020 graduate and University of California, Santa Cruz, freshman isn't letting the stay at home order keep her from getting a head start on a future career.

She's currently participating in the Bank of America Student Leader program — a paid summer internship — where she's working on a virtual project for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita. The project will run for the rest of the summer, and end before she begins her online college courses.

"I was excited to work on this project because I feel like I have a special connection to the Boys and Girls Club," Dimitrov said. "When my father moved to America from Yugoslavia, he was  a part of that program and always said that the Boys and Girls Club gave him a head start and tools he needed for a life in a new country."

Bank of America's senior vice president of Community Relations, Raul Bustillos, said that Dimitrov was selected for the program because of how she showed leadership at Renaissance High School. She was the student government vice president, previously the secretary, and also was the school newspaper's editor.

"Our leaders were chosen because of how active they are within their own communities, not by their grades alone," Bustillos said. "Kristiana is someone who is a promising leader and is not afraid to put in the work to grow.

"This program is an investment in our communities and young people like Kristiana will be our country's leaders one day."

Four other students from the Los Angeles area were selected to participate in the 2020 program as well. They are Bradley Kwon from Diamond Bar, Emily Chang from Valencia, Kiara Henderson from Redondo Beach and Sarah Tran from Panorama City.

In total, 3,000 juniors and seniors from across the nation were selected to participate in the program that started at the end of June. For six weeks, they will work for a nonprofit as a paid intern and attend online seminars that focus on financial literacy and leadership.

In previous years, the program was hands-on, meaning that interns would show up to their paid internship for 15 to 20 hours per week, meet with other interns in their area for seminars and then towards the end of the program, fly to Washingon D.C., where they would meet interns from around the country and tour the nation's capitol. This year, the entire program has pivoted to an online platform and the Washington D.C. trip was cancelled.

Dimitrov said that she isn't too disappointed that the program's curriculum was adjusted. Her priority is what she's learning and the connections she is able to make, despite not being able to meet in person, she said.

"The internship is helping me create a voice for myself, and I've always been shy, so that's something I've had to learn," she said. "I'm getting connected with people that I wouldn't have connected with otherwise, and these are connections and friendships that will follow me through college."

Dimitrov added that she's currently writing a young adult novel and aims to attend law school and pursue a career in law or politics.

"It took me a while to find my voice, so I'd like to help others find theirs too," she said.

For more information about Bank of America's Student Leadership program and how to apply next year, go to about.bankofamerica.com.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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