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Habitat's Student Leaders

July 27, 2015

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Over the past several weeks, the Habitat Metro Denver staff has had the distinct pleasure of hosting some extra pairs of helping hands – our 2015 Bank of America Student Leaders interns!

This fun, passionate, intelligent and caring group of young adults has made a real impact and helped our team advance Habitat’s mission of building homes, communities and hope. The Student Leader program helps prepare youth for a brighter future by connecting community-minded high school juniors and seniors to employment, skills development and service.  Our group of Student Leaders’ 8-week paid internship will embed them directly in our community, surveying residents in the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea for our Critical Home Repair program. Additionally, Bank of America sent each student to a Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. to join other young people from across the country to share stories of their internship experiences, hear renowned speakers, and participate in activities and networking.

We asked each of the interns about their experiences with us. Here is a little bit more about these unique young leaders:  

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You just got back from the Bank of America Student Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. What was your favorite part of that experience?

My favorite part of the Bank of America Student Leaders Summit was the opportunity to network with other students who shared my interest in current issues and events. All of the fellow Student Leaders were inclusive and thoughtful. The talks from the presenting speakers amplified the overall experience since it provided me and others topics for discussion. The workshop format of the Summit also allowed for a nurturing environment where we could all share our thoughts and beliefs without the fear of being judged. During my week in Washington D.C., I enjoyed the countless opportunities that I had to expand my horizons by meeting new people and learning about new ideas. - Se Young Cheong

You've told us about your passion for teamwork and community involvement. Can you share some examples of the importance of teamwork from during your internship at Habitat Metro Denver? 

Teamwork and community involvement are of great importance to me when considering a job or opportunity. At Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, I’ve had the chance to work with some of the smartest young professionals I have ever encountered. Working with four other interns, with the same drive to give back, we’ve been able to effectively make a difference in the Elyria, Swansea, and Globeville neighborhoods of Denver. Together, we have administered surveys seeking to gain perspective of the local resident’s attitude towards the new I-70 development. As a collective team, we have gone above and beyond, completing tasks at a faster pace than expected. A lot of it has to do with the great communication and work ethic we all encompass. Without my fellow team members, our community development project couldn’t have been accomplished. It takes the effort of each and every single person and working at Habitat of Metro Denver has truly added to how I value teamwork. - Luis Trujillo

What experiences are you most proud of or made the largest impact during your time at Habitat Metro Denver?

Working in Denver neighborhoods in need of revitalization helped me realize the increasing need in our state for affordable housing. This experience took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to understand some of the serious issues facing our community. I had the fortunate opportunity to speak to some of the residents and get their opinion of what life is like in their neighborhoods. While I feel like it is important to support the international community, I realized the increasing need to also support the local public. I also had the wonderful opportunity to work with people who do not share the same worldview as me. By having the tough conversations and talking about issues my fellow interns and I have differing opinions on, I have gained a larger appreciation for their point of view and left this internship with a deeper level of respect for them. I am grateful for this opportunity to work with such great people and I will always remember the positive impact this internship has had on my life. - Carter Mateer

You've volunteered your time both locally at Habitat Metro Denver and internationally in Mexico and Peru. What would you say to encourage other people your age to be more involved in helping others?

Getting involved in a community, be it in your home town or in another part of the world, is a process. That is why it is best to incorporate an element of service into a passion you already have rather than separate service from your personal commitments for the sake of efficiency. Something important I’ve learned is that we cannot aim to “help” others, since that approach immediately creates an “us” versus “them” mentality. To make change, young people need to shift their service paradigm away from self-righteousness and towards humility. Service to a community requires an individual to find where they best fit in, the space where they can work with the most people in the most effective way, and that looks different for each person. My advice is to immerse yourself in the world around you: experiment, discover, and go outside your comfort zone. Always remember that you are not the most important thing. Care for other people, even in small ways. That is the greatest service you can do.  - Kyle Wright

We know that you are passionate about helping students around you find confidence and purpose through JROTC. What have you learned during your time at Habitat that you can apply when you leave?

My internship at Habitat has challenged me in different ways than any of my past experiences. I had never been a part of an administrative environment before. Our supervisor ensured that we learn to think about our community’s issues, to deny the status quo as irrevocably correct, and do something to change it. The work that we have done surveying communities has given me a chance to listen to the stories of the community members and understand the injustices they often face. I have learned to respect Habitat’s work ensuring that families are not alone and given opportunities through knowledge and support. - Veronica Fernandez-Diaz