CareerWork$ is pleased to announce that Eric Lopez, a December 2022 graduate of the BankWork$® program from our training partners at A New Leaf in Phoenix, Arizona, has been selected as the fifth recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award!
The award, which began in Spring 2021, recognizes a graduate of our BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical® programs each quarter who has shown significant personal growth and transformation from the start of their class until their graduation. Eric was celebrated by his former instructor at A New Leaf, as well as various members of the CareerWork$ team from around the country during his surprise ceremony.
The Marc Hill Rising Star Award is part of CareerWork$’ ongoing work to open doors to meaningful careers and honors the legacy of Marc Hill, an instructor of both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$® Ready programs, who passed away in 2020. Each quarter, instructors from each of our training partners nominate a graduate whom they feel deserves the award.
The A New Leaf team was most impressed by Eric’s desire to improve his communication skills. According to Cheri Foschi, Eric’s BankWork$ Instructor, “Eric had his own built-in discipline, but he still came up with a plan to develop his communication skills. My team was so proud of him on graduation day as he met with our bank recruiters, introducing himself without fear or shyness.”
“I feel incredibly proud to have been recognized by this outstanding program,” said Eric. “I was unsure of the direction I wanted to take my career before I started my course, but as the course progressed, I was given access to the diligence and courage of the BankWork$ team, which truly helped me make my decision to pursue a career in the financial sector.”
After graduating from BankWork$, Eric has launched his career in finance as a Customer Service Representative in Phoenix, Arizona. We hope this award will continue to guide him and help him grow in his career. As a Marc Hill Rising Star Award recipient, Eric received a certificate and cash award to enhance the start of his new career.
Throughout her career, Nicole Zayas struggled with her confidence and felt overlooked. After working as a delivery driver in the Phoenix, Arizona heat, she wanted to explore new career paths that could offer her a sense of purpose and fulfillment. In August 2022, while looking for opportunities online, Nicole discovered BankWork$, a free banking career readiness program offered by A New Leaf. She decided to enroll and set her sights on a career in banking.
For Nicole, it was important to find a career where she could still be present for her family. “Growing up, my dad always worked twelve-hour weekdays and did military stuff on the weekends. He was always gone and working,” said Nicole. “I wanted a career where my work-life balance would not only benefit my own well-being but also enable me to be there for my family.”
Nicole was initially apprehensive about starting a program where she did not know anyone, but she soon made friends and received ample support. “I met several classmates that I quickly got close with, and we all supported each other. When I experienced car trouble after class one day, my instructors and classmates went out of their way to make sure I got home safely.”
“BankWork$ prepared me,” Nicole said, reflecting on her experience in the program. Thanks to the guidance and training provided by her instructors, Nicole was able to develop a deeper understanding of what it truly means to conduct herself professionally. “There were so many things that I thought were professional behaviors that I now know are unprofessional. I learned how important it is to not lose your head, and be able to assist anybody who comes in the room,” said Nicole.
After graduating, Nicole, like all BankWork$ graduates, interviewed with local financial institutions at a hiring fair. “On graduation day, I dressed up as best as I could, and my entire family was able to come and see me graduate. It was really special,” said Nicole. “My son was three at the time, and he came running up to me afterward saying, ‘Mommy, I’m so proud of you!’ If you’ve ever heard a three-year-old say that, you know it’s the best feeling in the world.”
At the hiring fair, Nicole felt a strong connection with a recruiter from BMO Harris. After completing the interview process, she was hired by BMO and now works as an Associate Banker. She loves helping customers, processing transactions, and recommending services to them.
For Nicole, being able to provide for her family and set a positive example for her kids is bringing her so much joy. “With this job, we can afford the things we need and even some extras. I cherish the time I get to spend with my husband and children, and with one more on the way, this job allows me to be there for them. It fills me with so much joy to work hard and then come home to my beautiful family.”
After graduating from high school in Milwaukee, Yesenia Delgado was going through a difficult time in her personal life. With a desire to work in financial services, she struggled to find any opportunities. After discovering an ad for BankWork$ at Employ Milwaukee on Facebook, Yesenia knew she was on the path to achieving her dream. “I always had this goal of wanting to work at a bank, but I thought it would require a college degree, but it turns out I was wrong. After I applied for BankWork$, I got a call, and the next thing I knew, I was there doing assessments and an interview,” recalls Yesenia.
For Yesenia, BankWork$ was nothing short of life-changing. She joined the program in April 2022 and graduated that June. Despite the program’s intensity at times, Yesenia was optimistic about her experience and full of praise for the program’s instructors, Adriene Wright and Oscar Delgado. “I gained a lot more positivity. I tend to doubt myself a lot regarding things like this, but Adriene and Oscar helped me develop my skills to become a more confident person,” said Yesenia.
After completing the program, BMO hired Yesenia as a Relationship Banker, where she loves helping customers and impacting her community. When asked what drew her to the banking industry, Yesenia stated, “I’m passionate about helping the Hispanic community develop financial skills. As young adults, we don’t get taught a lot about our finances, even in schools, and I felt it was important for me to teach them to be more knowledgeable. I love that I get the opportunity to help customers and be involved with my community. It’s not just a job for me. It’s a passion.”
Adriene Wright, the BankWork$ instructor at Employ Milwaukee, was impressed with Yesenia’s attitude toward learning. “Yesenia was a pleasure to have in the classroom. She was the confident supporting voice in the room for everyone, a leader who always volunteered and assisted others. We knew that she would be an asset to any company she would join by bringing seasoned experience, a passion for helping others, a willingness to learn, and determination to succeed,” said Adriene.
Yesenia said about her experience with BankWork$, “it’s a lot of knowledge to take in within eight weeks. It can be stressful at times, but you already know that on the other side is a successful life and career.”
“I originally wanted to work in financial services so I wouldn’t have to work weekends!’ says Michelle. “I started my career as a sales representative in a call center, then moved on to teller, then branch manager, and eventually a regional manager overseeing 24 banks in the Bay Area. Climbing the ranks in banking was an incredible experience, but the most rewarding part of my journey was helping my colleagues achieve their own goals within the industry. My passion for helping others succeed in banking ultimately led me to pursue a career in teaching and mentoring, which has always been a passion of mine, so becoming an instructor at FACE was a perfect fit. If I can help support people with a firm foundation for success, why wouldn’t I?” said Michelle.
As an instructor, Michelle teaches BankWork$, an eight-week program that covers everything from customer service to financial services. She provides individualized attention and support to each participant, ensuring they receive the guidance and resources necessary to succeed. Michelle describes her teaching style as filled with energy, enthusiasm, and a deep commitment to her students’ success.
For Michelle, seeing participants graduate is the most fulfilling part of her work. Witnessing her students overcome challenges and achieve their goals brings her immense pride and satisfaction. She strongly believes in providing a solid foundation for success and is dedicated to supporting her students every step of the way. As an educator, she strives to cultivate a learning environment that empowers individuals and fosters their growth. Two of her former students, Barabara and Jessica, have each shared with CareerWork$ the profound impact Michelle and BankWork$ have had on their lives.
“I am always moved to tears at graduations,” says Michelle. “Witnessing students overcome adversity and push through to the finish line inspires me to continue helping others achieve their goals in the banking industry. When people ask me how I maintain my energy and enthusiasm, I always remind myself that every day is an opportunity for greatness. I actively choose to look for the bright side of things.”
Michelle’s work at BankWork$ has helped many individuals enter the banking industry and achieve their goals. She recently obtained her Doctorate in Education, Organizational Leadership, enabling her to assist further and guide aspiring professionals. She looks forward to continuing to support and inspire more participants on their path to success.
Upon relocating from India to Seattle, Washington, Bincy Babu, MBA faced the challenge of starting anew in a different country. While looking for new opportunities, Bincy discovered CareerWork$ Ready, is a free job readiness program created to help participants, offered at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. During her time in class, Bincy developed her skills, built her confidence, and pursued her dreams.
“I would encourage anyone struggling to begin their career to sign up for this program,” said Bincy. “The training sessions and curriculum provided me with the support, resources, a strong resume, and connections that helped me navigate the challenges that held me back from restarting my career. I will always cherish the positive impact it had on my life. I believe that you should bloom where you are planted, and anyone can accomplish their goals.”
Today, Bincy is proud to be a Lead Operations Associate, managing daily operations and delivering excellent customer service. Bincy believes every day is a new opportunity for growth and learning, and she is excited to meet and help new people.
If your organization is interested in helping individuals like Bincy to advance in their careers, consider partnering with us to deliver CareerWork$ Ready. Please get in touch with us to learn more about this opportunity. https://bit.ly/3WETKiS
Motunrayo Oladeinde has always been passionate about financial services and helping others. In 2018, he moved from Nigeria to Philadelphia to advance his career in the financial services industry. He discovered BankWork$ at Philadelphia OIC, and quickly applied for the program, impressing his instructor, Shantelle Faison, with his dedication and hard work. After graduating in 2018, Motunrayo started with Santander Bank as a Teller and eventually worked his way up to Branch Operation Manager.
“Shantelle was a great help in making me feel confident about the program. I had no idea that she would become my instructor!” Motunrayo said. “During class, she was always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that I understood the material and could succeed. She was more than an instructor; she was a mentor. She’s someone people like me need.”
Shantelle was impressed by Motunrayo’s dedication and hard work throughout the program. She noted his strong work ethic and eagerness to learn. “Motunrayo is very passionate about his financial career,” said Shantelle. “He is a very humble and grateful-spirited person, and it was an honor to have him in the program.”
After graduating from BankWork$, Motunrayo was contacted by a recruiter from Santander Bank for an interview. He was impressed by the bank’s commitment to providing excellent customer service and its focus on helping the community. A week after his interview, he received the good news that he was hired.
“My wife and children are still in Nigeria, and I desperately needed a job to take care of my family, so I couldn’t sleep that night when they said congratulations. My heart was filled with so much joy,” said Motunrayo. “At the end of BankWork$, I knew that something good was on the horizon, and Santander Bank hired me soon after graduation. I’ve been with them ever since.”
In 2019, he started as a Teller at Santander Bank, helping with deposits and cash withdrawals. He eventually moved on to work as an ATM Custodian, and in 2020 he was promoted to Branch Operation Manager.
Motunrayo believes that BankWork$ is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to start a career in the financial services industry. He encourages others to take advantage of the program and says, “BankWork$ gave me the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this industry. It also gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams. It’s a great investment in yourself. I can’t thank Shantelle enough for what she’s done for me.”
“It’s been a great joy for me that my dreams are coming true,” Motunrayo said. “Remain focused. Don’t do what others are doing. Make a plan for yourself. When you have a plan for yourself, you know what to pursue. I knew I wanted to work in a bank, and now I’m here. I’m so lucky that I love what I’m doing.”
“When I first moved to the United States from Iraq in 2020, I knew very little English, and it was so hard to communicate with people. My sister and I moved to be closer to my dad, but I knew I would need to find a job quickly. I was doing odd jobs for six months when I discovered BankWork$. The program was exactly what I was looking for, and I couldn’t believe my luck,” said Omar.
Omar studied accounting in Iraq and knew he was very skilled at math, but learning English was far more of a challenge. While enrolled in the class, he would practice English at night and take the course during the day.
“When I started BankWork$, I was so worried about my accent; it’s quite different than how people talk in Pittsburgh,” said Omar. “However, I was surprised to see many other cultures represented in my class! We had people with many different accents and languages. My instructor, Tanya Bashor, taught me how to talk to others professionally and even invited me to meet her family for dinner to learn U.S. customs.”
After graduating from BankWork$ in March 2021, Omar interviewed with Dollar Bank and First Commonwealth Bank and got offers from both. However, he chose Dollar Bank because it is closer to his home. Currently, he works as a Senior Operations Analyst and is preparing for his upcoming promotion to Wire Transfer Supervisor.
Omar describes his current role as “behind the scenes.” He prefers helping customers without needing to speak face to face. “In my role, I process wire transfers and help customers on the phone. This spring, when I finish training, I will be promoted to Wire Transfer Supervisor and help lead others,” said Omar.
Omar highly recommends BankWork$ to anyone considering applying. “My friends always ask me how I got to my job, and I tell them about this program,” said Omar. “It helped me get my job and improve my professional skills. I’m grateful for all the doors it has opened in my life. Last month, I bought my dream car with the earnings I made from Dollar Bank. None of this would have been possible without BankWork$, and I can’t recommend it enough.”
To AJ Schwerdtfeger, a career in banking always felt like a pipe dream. After helping run his father’s business in Wisconsin for years, AJ moved to Arizona in 2021 for a fresh start. Despite his desire for a career in financial services, without previous relevant experience, he struggled to find an opportunity. While working as a pool cleaner in the summer of 2021, AJ discovered BankWork$ at A New Leaf in Phoenix, Arizona. Today, AJ has been at Bank of America for over a year and enjoys helping customers every day.
“During my time cleaning pools, I was desperate to find a career at a bank,” said AJ. “I found BankWork$ on Indeed and instantly applied. After I got accepted, my managers allowed me to adjust my pool schedule so I could take the program. They knew how much I wanted this opportunity, and I’m grateful for their support.”
Lorraine Alvarez, Business Services Supervisor at A New Leaf, first met AJ when he applied for BankWork$. “AJ was a role model student in Instructor Cheri Foschi’s class,” said Lorraine. “I asked him why he wanted to leave the family business, and his reply was, ‘look at my hands; the pool chemicals are damaging my hands. I can’t do this anymore.’ He always arrived to class early and didn’t miss a single day, earning him the Perfect Attendance Award. He started out as a timid young man during the first week of class, but was leading group activities by week six,” said Lorraine.
“Before starting BankWork$, I kept to myself a lot,” said AJ. “I didn’t talk to people all that much and preferred to blend into the background. Now, I talk to people on the phone daily. It’s crazy for me to remember that wasn’t always the case. Joining Cheri’s class was one of the best decisions I ever made because it jumpstarted my career in financial services. She taught me how to break out of my shell and become a more confident speaker. We still keep in touch today, and I’m grateful for her guidance and advice.”
After graduating from BankWork$ in November 2021, AJ interviewed with multiple financial institutions in Phoenix. Soon after his graduation ceremony, he enthusiastically accepted an offer from Bank of America for a General Distributions Representative role. In November 2022, AJ was promoted to Distribution Escalations Specialist.
His daily responsibilities include moving money between accounts, helping with paperwork, and talking with customers on the phone. “Sometimes people are frustrated or upset with their financial situations, and I enjoy helping walk them through solutions to their problems,” said AJ. “At Bank of America, we’re always trying to figure out how things could improve, and I’ve always loved helping people—so it’s a great fit. I can’t wait to continue my career here for a long time.”
Brett Moore was sure that a career in financial services was right around the corner after graduating college with an economics degree. However, he struggled to get interviews due to his lack of banking experience. After searching Indeed for job opportunities, Brett discovered BankWork$ at Goodwill of Colorado in Denver, Colorado. With only a few days until classes started, Brett quickly applied. Now, five years after graduating from BankWork$, Brett is a Branch Service Manager at Vectra Bank, where he oversees tellers and helps customers daily. “Signing up for that class started my career as a whole. I have no idea where I’d be without it,” said Brett.
When Brett started BankWork$ in October 2017, he was in Instructor Candice Sporhase-White’s class. The professional environment of the program was a new but positive experience. “When I was in college, everything was on beach time,” said Brett. “Candice’s class was much more structured; she would call people out who weren’t actively listening, which helped me pay close attention. She didn’t want us to make careless mistakes.”
For Brett, financial skills came naturally, but professional social skills were a greater personal challenge. “Candice taught me how to interview correctly. I used to answer questions immediately without thinking of a good response, but now I’m much better. While I was initially attracted to the career potential this class provided, I’m thankful for the social skills it taught me. We did weeks of interview practices, social skill lessons, and training exercises. Without BankWork$, I don’t know how I would have sold myself to convince people to hire me,” said Brett.
After graduating from BankWork$ in December 2017, Brett, like all BankWork$ graduates, interviewed with local financial instructions (all BankWork$ graduates are guaranteed interviews with each employer partner). Shortly after graduating, he accepted an offer from Vectra Bank for a junior teller position. “My family was thrilled to see me get hired so quickly!” said Brett. Currently, he trains new tellers and helps clients with various financial services issues. His favorite aspect of his career is feeling like part of a community where everyone wants each other to succeed.
Kelly Hargrove, a current Manager and Banking Instructor for BankWork$ at Goodwill of Colorado, was inspired by Brett’s story and has invited him to speak at several events to offer advice to current participants. “From the first moment Brett reached out to me, he was eager to share the huge impact the program had on him and how it helped him get a career with Vectra Bank,” said Kelly. “Brett has generously come to speak to students at my classes and was also an inspiring alum speaker at a recent graduation. His story motivates others students to believe in their dreams. It makes a huge difference for them to hear a story from someone like Brett, who has been where they were and is now where they want to be!”
Brett’s advice to anyone considering BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical is to figure out if it will help you reach your career goals. “The instructors will help you define your goals and figure out if it’s a good fit. There’s much to learn and gain from that class besides just banking,” said Brett.
Created in Spring 2021, the Marc Hill Rising Star Award, presented by CareerWork$, recognizes a graduate of BankWork$ or CareerWork$ Medical who has shown significant personal growth and transformation since starting class. After receiving nominations from instructors across the country, the CareerWork$ team selects one recipient each quarter. During a surprise ceremony, often joined by colleagues, coworkers, and friends, the recipient receives a certification and cash award to enhance and enrich their new career. This award honors Marc’s legacy of supporting those around him and helping them achieve their best.
“Marc Hill had a way of looking for every opportunity to educate and empower applicants who had the odds stacked against them,” said Ruby Sloan, Program Manager at CareerWork$. “Hundreds of graduates’ lives are forever changed because Marc believed in them when the world would have counted them out. His legacy will live on through the Marc Hill Rising Star Award.”
In 2012, Ruby enrolled in Marc’s BankWork$ class (co-instructed with Mercedes Rippel) at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Feeling mentally stuck, Ruby wasn’t sure a career in financial services was attainable for her, but thanks to Marc’s guidance, she developed her confidence and self-worth. “Marc saw my potential when I couldn’t see it in myself,” said Ruby. “He showed me that I didn’t have to stay stuck in my situation. Lesson by lesson, he taught me how to dig out of my darkness and despair. He showed me how to be successful by simply looking for opportunities to help my clients and coworkers.”
“He had a way of teaching lessons in a memorable and meaningful way,” noted Ruby. “He was transparent and honest about expectations in banking, and it helped us prepare for the reality of the careers we were all pursuing. Marc was a funny guy, full of cliché sayings and dad jokes, and was consistently his authentic self in an unapologetic way. To be in his presence meant you were either laughing or learning. He dropped nuggets of wisdom in everyday conversations that I still draw on today.”
In 2016, after several promotions in banking, Ruby returned to the YWCA as a Career Navigator, where she became colleagues with Marc. Shortly after, she joined the CareerWork$ national team, where she supports instructors throughout the country. Like Marc, all of our instructors continue to inspire, encourage, and train participants who are looking to enter the workforce.
Dion Willis, fellow Program Manager at CareerWork$, who also worked alongside Marc during his time at the YWCA, was deeply inspired by his impact. “I learned so much from him,” said Dion. “Marc genuinely cared about all of his students. It’s hard not to shed a tear thinking about what he meant to the Seattle community and all the lives he touched.”
Ruby believes the Marc Hill Rising Star Award honors Marc’s legacy by “allowing our instructors to nominate and share the stories of graduates who have overcome obstacles that others may have otherwise not known or seen. It recognizes all the effort behind closed doors that many of our graduates have to put in just to have a chance at a career with growth potential. Some of us don’t just start from the bottom; we start in a hole with no way out until someone like Marc throws us a shovel and brings us hope, giving us a way out. The award also allows the graduate to feel seen and celebrated. It’s a reminder that this is just the beginning, the sky is the limit, and they are a Rising Star.”
As of January 2023, four recipients have won the Marc Hill Rising Star Award—Dynasty, Alexis, Deepa, and Delaney—each with unique stories of overcoming adversity while pursuing their career dreams. We look forward to celebrating more recipients of this award in the months and years to come!