Kryster Labarda, Hope through Housing’s 2023 Bank of America Student Leader intern, led a team of volunteers to create a literacy corner at Mountainside in Rancho Cucamonga.
The group adorned the walls of the community room with a large reading tree made of construction paper. A brown trunk and green leaves grow from the floor to settle among words of affirmation designed with cotton balls in hues of red, blue, yellow and white.
Thanks to the Bank of America grant, Kryster gave Mountainside’s youth residents a space to immerse themselves in new worlds.
“Despite the difficulties, I was really excited!” Kryster said. “Just knowing that kids will be able to take advantage of this room in the fall really motivated us to do a great job.”
Kryster is a student at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga. With her sights set on a career in the medical field, she said the experience she gained at Hope through Housing will help her become a better healthcare provider.
Her desire to work with underserved communities stems from her experiences as a first-generation Filipina. Because of the prevalence of racism in the medical field, Kryster strives to create a space for people with darker skin to feel included and cared for – something she rarely sees.
“I see the diversity of our residents and how the Hope staff reflects that,” she said. “This is especially important for the after-school program because you want them to feel welcomed in whatever space they’re in.”
When at National CORE properties, Kryster has been assisting Hope through Housing staff with after-school program activities and with back-to-school events.
“I like that Hope through Housing is very hands-on and involved with the well-being of residents,” Kryster said. “I wanted to get more involved as opposed to just being behind a screen or a book and that goal has been met so far.”
Part of Mountainside’s beautification process called for the replacement of the small bookshelf with two larger ones. Kryster noticed that some books were tattered and catered to a younger demographic. She pored through her own bookshelves to find more suitable material for teens.
Now the bookshelves are replete with books for all ages.
Kryster said that with the support of the after-school program department, taking the lead on the project allowed her to step into a new role and gain leadership experience.
“Leadership doesn’t come easy,” Kryster said. “It is not about directing people, it is about learning from them and applying that to your own expertise so that you know the end product can be good.”
The Bank of America leadership program provides students the tools to become tomorrow’s leaders. The program is part of Bank of America’s ongoing commitment to youth employment and economic mobility. Through leadership training and work experience, young students are placed on the right path to becoming successful in the workforce.
“Our commitment to breaking the generational cycle of poverty plays an important role in everything we do,” president of Hope through Housing Gregory Bradbard said. “To be able to partner with organizations, like Bank of America, that believe in the same thing as we do is essential to assisting youth in breaking that chain.”