by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - SUBMITTED PHOTO One of every four job seekers between the ages of 16 and 19 is still unable to find employment despite gains in the overall job market. Bank of America is responding to this problem with its Student Leaders program, which places five Portland-area high school students in paid eight-week internships at Habitat for Humanity. Two of the five are Lake Oswego residents: Madeline McKerrow, on the far left, and Nickolas Lapp, second from the right.One out of every four job seekers between the ages of 16 and 19 is still unable to find employment despite gains in the overall job market. In Oregon specifically, the recession has caused 20,000 fewer teenagers to be hired each summer.

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation has selected five Portland-area high school students, including Madeline McKerrow and Nickolas Lapp of Lake Oswego, to take part in the 2012 Student Leaders program, which awards a total of 225 high school juniors and seniors from around the country with paid eight-week summer internships. Since the program’s inception, the Portland area Student Leaders have worked at Habitat for Humanity locations across greater Portland and southwest Washington.

The program is part of Bank of America’s ongoing philanthropic commitment to provide community-minded students with access and exposure to critical resources that will bolster their work and life skills while also benefiting the community. The student awardees will also travel to Washington, D.C., to take part in a national Student Leadership Summit in July.

“Teens have been disproportionally affected by the recession with unemployment rates at an all-time high,” said Roger Hinshaw, president of Bank of America Oregon and Southwest Washington. “Through our Student Leaders program students are receiving more than just a paycheck. They are gaining valuable real world experience that will help them develop further as leaders, all while helping to strengthen Portland during a time when an increased number of people need assistance.”

McKerrow is interning at Willamette West Habitat for Humanity; she will be a senior at St. Mary’s Academy in the fall. Lapp, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, is interning at Habitat for Humanity Portland-Metro East.

“This is an amazing opportunity to be able to work all summer with Habitat,” Lapp said. “I get to do kind of a variety of different things. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I work in the office. I am responsible for kind of asking for money — so a little fundraising stuff. And I’m also responsible for some media that we’re doing.”

For example, Lapp said, he’s now making a two- to three-minute video about the organization for a news publication’s annual gift guide.

“It will be going to a magazine and hopefully gain some awareness for Habitat and help people to donate a little bit,” he said.

On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Lapp works as a Habitat site host.

“I have to get there a little bit before the volunteers, at about 8 o’clock,” he explained. “I am responsible for helping them get signed in, helping to get set up with their equipment and give them a little orientation in the morning, and then also throughout the day I’m a person they look to if they have questions about how stuff works.

“You can tell I’m not the most expert construction worker because I’ve only been going a couple months. But I’m able to answer some questions and be there to give some support to the team leaders we have there.”

Lapp said his construction skills have benefited from his Habitat experience.

“I’ve learned how to nail nails a lot better without breaking my finger too bad,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of framing now, which is setting the interior walls of the house. It’s hard to say that you’ve learned one thing; you just kind of get a feel for how construction comes together, I think, when you do a process like this. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how difficult it is to manage so many people and try and get everybody on task and have something to do when you have large groups of people working on the same site.”

McKerrow said she spends certain days working with families.

“Earlier we got to see a family sign their mortgage at Chicago Title in Lake Oswego,” she said. “We got to see them sign the papers to their house, pay their down payment and then we got to go meet them at their house. That was a really an exciting day. I’ve got to see the process, make their application, then we do credit checks and then we get to see the end result, being the family getting a new home.

“The most exciting days are when you get to interact with the families and really see what all the work is going toward.”

The experience has also changed McKerrow’s perceptions of the program.

“I thought they really just gave homes away for free,” she said. “What I’ve learned since I’ve been there is actually a lot different. They believe in help-outs more than handouts. So they choose families that, just because of different issues in the ways economics work, they wouldn’t be able to get a normal loan from a bank, and they wouldn’t be able to make normal mortgage payments with interest. And that’s where Habitat for Humanity steps in: They help these families out by giving them zero percent rates on their homes.

“What I’ve really learned is that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t earning that much money but they are still very, very hardworking families, they are incredibly dedicated to raising their children and creating a better life for their children. I’ve seen how admirable these people’s lifestyles can be, and it’s just been a great learning to see the sacrifices these families are willing to make and their work ethic — it’s incredible.”

McKerrow said working with the Habitat for Humanity program has inspired her to start a Youth United program for the Willamette West Habitat for Humanity to involve more teens in the Habitat for Humanity program.

Both Lapp and McKerrow are enthusiastic about their internship opportunities.

“This is way better than a summer job,” said Lapp.

“Oh my gosh! I would give it a 20 out of 10,” said McKerrow. “It’s been such an amazing program. Bank of America has been so great! On top of giving these great internships they’ve giving us financial awareness classes so that when we’re getting our first paycheck we’re not just going out and spending it. And I’m so excited to go to Washington, D.C., and just meet with all these other kids from across the U.S. and talk with them about their ideas.”

“The Student Leaders program provides meaningful work experience for teens each summer and enables Habitat for Humanity to provide more much-needed housing for local families in need,” said Steve Messinetti, president and chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity Portland-Metro East. “Every year, we are able to make a greater impact in the Portland metro area thanks to the hard work of these energetic, intelligent and community-minded students. Over the last nine years we’ve been consistently impressed by the quality of the students selected for the program and are thankful for Bank of America’s dedication to our programs and to our community’s next generation of leaders.”

The weeklong Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., will include a service learning project and a series of interactive workshops, including Capitol Hill briefings, sessions on financial education and leadership development skills. Organizers expect that students will gain a deeper understanding of how service creates positive change and how corporate, nonprofit and government collaboration revitalizes communities.

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