Badia & Jay take on Summer Meals

Badia & Jay take on Summer Meals


Dream Big Mural at Albany Center Gallery


Badia Syed Banner

Hi, everyone! I’m Badia Syed, one of the Bank of America Student Leaders who interned at United Way of the Greater Capital Region this summer. The past few months were a very new and exciting experience for me. As a high school student here in Albany, I never had the opportunity to work in a professional work environment before, so being part of such an amazing program and gaining work experience was so valuable.

This summer has been filled with meeting new people, being part of the community, and realizing new ways I can help others in my community. Although I didn’t know much about the Summer Meals Collaborative before my internship, I’m glad I was given this opportunity through the program. Being able to work with United Way and many other local nonprofits was such a gratifying experience.  Knowing I was able to speak to kids and their families - hearing both the good and bad - allowed me to bring different issues to the collaborative's attention and help come up with potential solutions for future summers.

Having the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., with other Student Leaders was another surreal experience. Spending time with other young people from all over the country who were doing similar work with nonprofits made us feel part of an even larger community.

This summer has given me a greater understanding of what it means to be part of a community and offered insight into the many ways I can volunteer to support those who may need it the most. All of these opportunities combined to make an experience I will never forget! 


Jay Thomas Banner

Hi, I’m Jay Thomas, and I just wrapped up a summer interning at United Way of the Greater Capital Region through the Bank of America Student Leaders Program. We spent the past few months working with Heather Senecal and United Way’s many partners in the Summer Meals Collaborative. When the internship was brought to my attention, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I already had a job I enjoyed at Domino’s, but after reading more about the program, I realized it would be a great chance to learn how nonprofits and businesses work while also helping the community. After learning I was accepted to the program, I was thrilled! One day after graduating from Albany High School, I left my old job and started my internship at United Way.

We visited many different sites to help with research and also connected with the kids, staff, and parents, who gave us their honest opinions about the program. It feels gratifying knowing that our research will help improve the program in the future. We also launched “Spot the Bus” and “Spot the Lawn Sign” campaigns on social media, which helped get the word out about the more than 80 Summer Meals sites in the Capital Region! These tasks helped me build more confidence and be more open to constructive feedback. The staff and volunteers truly advocate for the kids and want the best for them.

Being in this program gave me ideas on what I can do for my community. I believe we all need to do our part if we want to make lasting changes and help all our friends and neighbors prosper. When I wasn’t visiting Summer Meals sites, I got to interact with other people in the office, hearing about what they do for a living and what kind of advice they could offer me before going to Binghamton University this fall for business.

Badia and I also got to travel to Bank of America’s summit in Washington, D.C., where I met with other Student Leaders from across the country who were working for nonprofits like United Way. Having discussions with them about the country and how we can make a change made me hopeful for the future. Overall, I am so thankful for this experience and the people I’ve met. It’s been a fun and productive summer for me! It was definitely a better use of my talents than making pizzas!