Over the summer of 2020, I applied to the Bank of America Student Leaders program — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a paid summer intern with a local nonprofit organization while interacting with Bank of America. It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with other teens who are active in their communities, and includes events, webinars and a summit in July (normally in Washington D.C., but virtual this year due to COVID).

Last spring, I was ecstatic to learn I had been selected as a student leader at the YMCA.  I’ve been involved at the Dan McKinney Family YMCA for 10 years as a gymnast, travelling both nationally and internationally.

My summer internship has been an amazing experience. I’ve been working on projects for human resources and interacting with YMCA donors and supporters. While all of the projects and endeavors I have taken on so far have been great, attending the HES Solar event was the most notable. The event began with the YMCA receiving a generous donation from HES Solar, a solar energy company in San Diego. But that wasn’t all. HES Solar plans to donate over $20,000 to the YMCA of San Diego County by the end of the year. This donation has the potential to save the YMCA $20 million over 20 years from the seven commercial solar systems that HES Solar built at seven YMCA facilities! Their installations on rooftop and carport arrays save the YMCA a significant amount of money and contribute to eco-friendly initiatives.

All of this sounds incredible, but the event got even better! Baseball pro Tony Gwynn Jr., walked onto the field. I was surprised how down-to-earth and kind he was, especially when he helped the camp kids sharpen their baseball skills. Many of the children had no idea what they were doing, but with some help from Tony, they picked it up quickly! I was amazed to see all of the talent and determination that filled the field that day.

As an intern, I got the opportunity to take pictures of this event. Although I am not a professional photographer, I still had plenty of fun taking action shots —  well, trying to take action shots!  Another highlight: I got to visit Jackie Robinson YMCA. I hadn’t been to this Y, and found the interior and exterior to be breathtaking. The outdoor field, where the event took place, was beautiful. The mini-museum with Jackie Robinson memorabilia caught my eye — I had never had the opportunity to see anything like this. 

The impact of HES Solar is not solely monetary, because the partnership will include educational presentations and crafts, as well as fun contests with prizes for children and adults in the San Diego area. This partnership will contribute to the Y’s efforts to uplift the community after the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Ultimately, this event was wonderful for a plethora of reasons, most importantly because of the impact of HES Solar. Seeing how both the YMCA and HES Solar are so dedicated to the community has inspired me beyond words. Before this internship, I was only a member of the YMCA and never really considered how things work behind the scenes. But now, I get to see how everything works within the Y, which shows me how the influence of HES Solar is so great for the YMCA and its future endeavors.

— Ebony Crandle, YMCA intern