Maya Harrell, a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, was selected a 2019 Bank of America Student Leader. The program is helping 283 students nationally who are passionate about improving the community and building leadership skills through a paid summer internship and attending a networking program.
Maya Harrell, a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, was selected a 2019 Bank of America Student Leader.
She applied for the program in fall 2018 and was notified in April of her selection as one of five high school students in the Chicago area who were recognized.
The program is helping 283 students nationally who are passionate about improving the community and building leadership skills through a paid summer internship and attending a networking program.
The program gave Maya a chance to work for eight weeks with underprivileged young people at the Ford Heights Boys & Girls Club.
“I think all of us grew together over the summer. The kids are so energetic and talented. Just seeing all they have to offer I just wanted to make sure I helped and encouraged them as much as I could,” Maya said.
She wants to work on developing a mentors club to get people involved to work with the kids, because she believes “they’d do very well if they had adult mentorship and someone to show them opportunities.”
Maya, the daughter of Lisa and Douglas Harrell of Flossmoor, said her experiences have been very important as she plans a future that will involve volunteer efforts in some form.
“I do want to work for a non-profit or do volunteering because that’s how I was raised – to give back. It’s my civic duty,” she said.
At the leadership summit in Washington, D.C., she spent time networking and learning how to work on political efficacy and voicing opinions.
When she met with aides to Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, “I asked how we could bring more money into the Ford Heights community and find ways to better the experiences, especially for children in that community,” she said. Maya also voiced her concerns for the rights of communities like Ford Heights, as well as working for inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It was a period of growth for all the students there,” Maya recalled. “We got to talk about things that some students were passionate about. One of my other passions is mass incarceration – how we could possibly help.” She met with a former convict who was able to set a path for himself through a special program that laid a foundation for him to get into a top tier college.
The Student Leader program isn’t Maya’s first foray into volunteerism. She helped create a youth program, the PG-13 Club, at her church, Emmaus Christian Community Church in Chicago Heights.
She helped organize a “get ready” program for teens so they could have their hair done for prom at reasonable prices and in junior high she helped at a fundraiser that was able to supply $4,000 in back-to-school donations for underserved students.
Maya says her career path is biomedical engineering. She has needed to see a number of doctors due to sports injuries and became interested in the biomedical field.
Her doctor visits “made me realize I wanted to help people who were dealing with disabilities or things with their bodies. This could be a career where I could help them alleviate pain,” she said.
This year Maya will serve as activities chair with the H-F Student Council. She said the committee has “many cool things” on the calendar.