LYNN — Student leaders from across the country met at the nation’s capital this summer with passion in their hearts for change as part of the Bank of America Student Leaders program.
Suzanne Musema, a 2017 graduate of Lynn Classical High School, was among the selected participants due to strong academic standing and community involvement, and couldn’t be more thankful for the experience, she said.
“My favorite part about going to Washington D.C was getting the chance to talk to congressman and advocate for the things I am passionate about,” she said. “It gave me so much hope for the future because I was surrounded by other people who were also all so passionate and working towards something.”
This year’s summit focused on building a more civically engaged society and pathways to employment.
The Bank of America Student Leaders programs help connect 225 community-minded high school juniors and seniors to employment, skills development and service. Selected students are awarded paid summer internships with local nonprofits such as Boys and Girls Club of America and Freedom School Partners, in addition to participating in the national leadership summit
Meeting with hundreds of other leaders, young and old, made Musema hopeful that our future is in the right hands, she said.
For years Musema has been a help to the city she moved to more than 10 years ago from her home country of Tanzania.
Abby Blaisdell, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said Musema was most noted for her involvement at Girls Inc.
“Suzanne is a Teen Health Ambassador at Girls Inc., where she facilitates workshops on teen health and sexuality, educating individuals on teen pregnancy, STDs, HIV/AIDS and making healthy choices,” she said. “Through her work with Girls Inc., she has come to learn that at-risk teens are in desperate need of mentors.”
One of her goals is to change the way we talk about sex in schools.
“Lynn is an abstinence-only education city so in our schools there’s no sex education. As a high school student, I had firsthand experience of how ineffective abstinence-only education has been,” Musema said. “I think it would be more beneficial if we had abstinence-only education as well as education on all the other alternatives.”
As part of the student leaders program, Musema was placed at the Boys and Girls club of Lynn as a paid intern, where she is able to serve the growing need for mentors within her own community as a counselor at Creighton Pond Day Camp.
Located in Middleton, the day camp serves kids from the surrounding area, as well as members of the Boys and Girls Club in Lynn, who are shuttled to and from the camp each day.
There is where Musema plans activities and mentors a group of 9-year-olds.
“She cares for what we have to say and doesn’t ignore us,” said Ryan Fox, of Middleton. “She looks us in the eyes when she is talking to us.”
Lynn’s Savas Trellopolous said his camp counselor has a good sense of humor.
“She’s not only here to help us but she makes you laugh when you are down,” he said. “She does it by being herself.”
Most of the campers said the best part of the summer was building the group’s campsite from sticks and woods.
“Building a campsite was definitely one of my favorite parts of the summer too. We had two hours to build it and everyone worked so well together,” Musema said. “The most challenging part was incorporating everybody’s ideas into the project but we accomplished it by listening to each other which was great.”
Musema is off to Salem State University in the fall to earn a degree in social work. On her first day of classes, the 18-year-old will start her college career with social work 101, something she is really looking forward to get into so soon, especially after her work this summer, she said.
“It will be good for me with my career goals in mind to learn to not only help people but to help them in a way that is most effective,” she said.
Camp director at Creighton Pond, Leland Boutilier, said Suzanne has been a pleasure to have at camp.
“This camp has a long tradition of keeping campers around, but Suzanne came in as a new counselor this year,” Boutilier said. “She’s picked right up on how we do things and developed great relationships with her campers. She has really created a family atmosphere with her group.”