CareerWork$ Announces Jamelah Yoakum as the Newest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

Jamelah Yoakum, a resilient individual with a passion for healthcare, embarked on a journey filled with challenges and triumphs. Two years ago, she set her sights on a career in the medical field, enrolling in a certification class. However, tragedy struck when she faced the loss of her brother to a senseless act of violence. Despite the heartbreak, with time Jamelah persisted and joined the CareerWork$ Medical program at SE Works in Portland, OR, where she balanced rigorous coursework with her job as a makeup artist.  During the 8 week program, Jamelah encountered yet another devastating setback as she lost another brother to an untimely death. Overwhelmed with grief, she contemplated dropping out of the program. However, with unwavering support from her Instructor, Valerie Harris, Jamelah found the strength to persevere. Despite the immense emotional burden she carried, Jamelah pressed on, impressing Valerie with her resilience and determination.

It is in recognition of her remarkable journey that Valerie nominated Jamelah for the Marc Hill Rising Star Award. The Marc Hill Rising Star Award 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. Each award recipient receives a certificate and a cash award to enhance the start of their new career. The award is an integral part of CareerWork$’s ongoing effort to create pathways to meaningful careers. It also honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, who was an instructor for both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$® Ready programs at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Marc passed away in late 2020, but the lessons he shared with his students epitomize our organizational values: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion.

Today, Jamelah proudly serves as a Treatment Assistant at Central City Concern, where her compassion and dedication shine through in her work. Jamelah remains grateful for Valerie who fought for her to follow through with the program despite the immense challenges.  Recently, the CareerWork$ and SE Works teams surprised Jamelah with a virtual celebration call.  Reflecting on her journey, CareerWork$ National Director Latoya Edmond praised Jamelah’s unwavering commitment to her goals and said “It’s unfortunate situations that, when they happen, show us how strong we can be.  You know that nothing can stop you if you continue to show up every day like you did with this program”. This month is Jamelah’s brother’s birthday month, and being recognized today holds extra significance for Jamelah.  Jamelah R. Yoakum’s journey serves as a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to overcome even the most formidable challenges. Her story inspires us all to persevere in the pursuit of our dreams, no matter the obstacles we face.

Transformative Opportunities: Yevhen Stanishevskyi’s American Dream Through BankWork$ 

Yevhen Stanishevskyi’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of opportunity and resilience. Forced to move his entire family from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2022 due to the impact of war, Yevhen faced a challenging transition to life in the United States. Armed with a master’s degree in banking and previous experience as a Branch Manager, he still struggled to find a position in banking. However, when he discovered BankWork$® at Employ Milwaukee, not only was he able to strengthen his skills in the U.S. banking industry, but also joined a community that became a lifeline, connecting him with dedicated supporters, staff, and fellow participants who provided unwavering support.  

“I was initially skeptical about BankWork$; I couldn’t believe that such a valuable opportunity was available for free. ‘I was so impressed with the diversity of the students in my class,’ Yevhen said. “My Instructor (Adrienne Wright) brought banking experience to her teaching role, and the other staff, (Jovo Potkonjak and Oscar Delgado), helped me find additional resources to help me succeed. My fellow participants in the classroom inspired me the most to graduate. They really helped me with my conversational English skills,” said Yevhen.  

Despite the challenges of adapting to a new country and language, Yevhen’s determination paid off. After graduating from BankWork$, he secured a new career as an Associate Banker at BMO.  

“There is still much more to do, but thanks to this program, I found a new job in a new country, in a language that is not my first. I can rely on myself more and can help others now. This program not only gave me the skills for my own success but also gave me a desire to pay it forward. I love using my knowledge of banking to help others; it’s an experience that’s unusual and gratifying,” said Yevhen.  

As he reflects on his journey, Yevhen expresses profound gratitude toward his team at Employ Milwaukee for their support, including mentorship from Jovo Potkonjak, former Sector Specialist at Employ Milwaukee (pictured above). Jovo retired in December 2023, and we are incredibly grateful for his impact on Yevhen and many of the program participants he’s inspired at Employ Milwaukee. Through BankWork$ and the guidance of dedicated leaders like Jovo, Yevhen has not only found his path but has also become a valuable contributor to his community.  

Learn more about BankWork$ at Employ Milwaukee.  

CareerWork$® Announces Kiana Williamson as the Latest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

Before her involvement with BankWork$®, Kiana Williamson worked as a cashier in Whittier, California. As a single mother, she navigated the challenges of living paycheck to paycheck, often sacrificing weekends and holidays without the support of benefits. Her aspiration was to establish a career that allowed her to apply her mathematical skills, promising a brighter future for herself and her daughter. When she discovered BankWork$ at JVS SoCal, she believed it could be the ticket she was looking for. 

“The BankWork$ program taught me how to dress and speak professionally. We had mock interviews and role-played to provide the best customer experience,” said Kiana. Earlier this year, she graduated from BankWork$, marking a deeply personal achievement she hadn’t experienced before. She invited her family, including her father, who was especially proud to see her graduate. 

Jynelle Sumera, Kiana’s instructor, witnessed her incredible growth throughout BankWork$. In Jynelle’s words, “This past year, Kiana decided she wanted more for herself and her daughter. At the beginning of the program, Kiana was reserved, shy, and often second-guessed herself. However, something inside Kiana shifted after the initial weeks. She fully embraced the program’s teachings, showing up early for class, dressed professionally, and always prepared. Her voice grew louder, and her confidence soared. She not only participated actively but excelled in class, becoming the next-level version of herself. Kiana’s transformation served as an inspiration to all of us.” 

Kiana reflects on Jynelle as a compassionate instructor. “She has changed my life in so many ways by providing me ongoing support in the most uncomfortable situations,” said Kiana.  She was not just an instructor to me; Jynelle is a mentor and a friend who pushed me through this process even when I was experiencing personal challenges. Because of Jynelle’s support, I am a much more confident person.” 

Today, Kiana works full-time at Banc of California, where her goals are to continue to learn and grow while she has found the work-life balance and economic independence that she and her daughter deserve. 

Kiana was recently surprised with her celebration ceremony for winning the Marc Hill Rising Star Award, where she was joined by her former instructors, her team at Banc of California, and the entire CareerWork$ team.

The Marc Hill Rising Star Award 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. Each award recipient receives a certificate and a cash award to enhance the start of their new career. 

The award is an integral part of CareerWork$’s ongoing effort to create pathways to meaningful careers. It also honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, who was an instructor for both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$ Ready programs at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Marc passed away in late 2020, but the lessons he shared with his students epitomize our organizational values: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion. 

Learn more about The Marc Hill Rising Star Award.

Turning the Page: Patrick Burke’s Journey from Odd Jobs to Banking 

Patrick Burke’s career journey had been a winding path. Bouncing from job to job to make ends meet, he went from working at a pet fulfillment center to becoming a commercial driver and later a warehouse manager. In January 2023, he stumbled upon an online ad for the BankWork$ Fundamentals program. Although Patrick was intrigued by the idea of working at a bank, he was worried about who would be willing to train him at his age. However, after a personal phone call from instructor Tanya Bashor, he was convinced to take a chance on the program. 

With no prior knowledge of the financial services industry, Patrick was concerned about learning the ins and outs of banking. “Before this class, I had never owned a professional outfit, and I’m thankful this class taught me how to dress professionally and present myself in an interview,” said Patrick. “I was nervous but excited. I had to learn various banking terms and processes, which felt overwhelming at first. But I persevered, and slowly, things started making sense. Banking was a new world for me, but I was able to find connections to all of my previous experiences, especially in customer service.” 

Tanya Bashor, Patrick’s instructor, spoke highly of him, noting his remarkable determination throughout the application process. “Patrick was very communicative about his concerns, but he always approached it with a growth mindset. He knew that this change in his career could positively impact his earning capacity in the future and set him on a path to a new career,” said Tanya. 

After graduating from BankWork$ Fundamentals in June 2023, Patrick was hired by First Commonwealth Bank and began his new role as a Financial Solutions Specialist in July. He shared, “When I started handling transactions, I could recall lessons I learned from class. On days when I’m not busy, I always try to learn something new. There have been a couple of times when I’m sitting in the bank, looking out the window, where I wish I had found such an opportunity earlier in my career because I appreciate the stability and respect that come with this role. I’m a single dad with custody of my kids, and they’ve been able to witness my journey and feel proud of my accomplishments. They got to see me go through the program, and I’m so much happier knowing I made the right choice.” 

When asked for advice for someone in a similar situation, Patrick emphasized the importance of making a list of career options and realistically evaluating each one. He recommended the BankWork$ Fundamentals program as an excellent entry point into the banking industry, highlighting the potential for growth and job security. 

Learn more about BankWork$ Fundamentals. 

CareerWork$® Announces Lulama Nzimande as the Latest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

CareerWork$ is delighted to announce the selection of Lulama Nzimande, an April 2023 graduate of the BankWork$® program from our training partners at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, as the sixth recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award! 

Lulama’s journey began in her birthplace of South Africa, where she bore witness to the country’s evolution from apartheid to democracy during her formative years, instilling in her a deep respect for diligence and advancement. Fueled by a recognition of insufficient financial awareness and empowerment among women, her path led her into the realm of financial services. Reflecting on her experiences, Lulama shared, “The positive changes I’ve seen in South Africa represent my enduring compassion for individuals who exemplify profound humanity.” 

Before enrolling in BankWork$, Lulama was already employed full-time as a dedicated caregiver. Her instructor, Tracy Hinman, mentioned that Lulama was “undeterred by her busy schedule; she adjusted her hours to coincide with the program’s classes. Juggling overnight shifts while consistently being prepared for class, Lulama’s determination stayed unwavering. She approached her assignments diligently, participated actively in class discussions, and maintained an incredibly positive attitude.” 

After graduating from BankWork$, Lulama secured a position as a Remote Contact Center Consultant at BECU, a month after her graduation. Her dedication, hard work, and commitment paid off, propelling her into the financial sector with confidence and purpose. 

 “After winning the award, I couldn’t help but let my emotions overflow as it dissolved any lingering doubts I had about the worthiness of my journey,” said Lulama. “The unwavering support from BankWork$ and the YWCA touched me deeply, serving as a reminder that I wasn’t navigating this path alone. As a woman and a person of color, it means a great deal to me. It gives me hope. Moreover, it compels me to give back to the community, to anyone I come across. I have a desire to contribute, whether through time, financial assistance, referrals, or resources. It motivates me to be a responsible citizen.” 

The Marc Hill Rising Star Award 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. Each award recipient receives a certificate and a cash award to enhance the start of their new career. 

The award is an integral part of CareerWork$’s ongoing effort to create pathways to meaningful careers. It also honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, who was an instructor for both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$® Ready programs at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. Marc passed away in late 2020, but the lessons he shared with his students epitomize our organizational values: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion. 

Learn more about The Marc Hill Rising Star Award. 

Empowering Dreams: How BankWork$ Led Jasmine Grant to a New Career in Financial Services

After relocating from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh, Jasmine Grant found herself at a crossroads in life. Her previous path was leading her towards a career in law, but as she delved deeper into her options, Jasmine discovered her true passion resided in the financial services industry. Determined to follow her heart, she decided to enroll in BankWork$ at Energy Innovation Center with Partner4Work. Under the guidance of her instructor, Carmen Williams, she found a supportive and inclusive atmosphere that eased her transition. 

“BankWork$ equipped me with valuable skills and knowledge,” said Jasmine. “The program not only covered rules and regulations but also provided practical scenarios, allowing me to simulate real-world interactions with customers which I still do today. Pretty much everything was useful. BankWork$ was very thorough in educating us on how to deal with and operate with customers.” 

As the program progressed, Jasmine honed her skills and gained valuable knowledge, preparing her for a successful career in banking. At the end of her time in class, she interviewed with local banks and credit unions. Eventually, she chose to start her career at First Commonwealth Bank. 

Jasmine couldn’t emphasize enough the impact Carmen had on her journey. She said, “Ms. Carmen’s support was not just for me, but for everyone in that classroom. She was supportive, understanding, and always available to us in many ways. She always took the time to make sure that we were equipped to be a part of this field. Regardless of the challenges I encountered, Ms. Carmen’s unwavering support and availability were instrumental. There was no issue that I had that I couldn’t come to her with, whether personal or work-related. She really changed my life,” said Jasmine. 

Reflecting on having Jasmine as a student, Carmen said, “I loved having Jasmine in the class; she was very outgoing and outspoken. She was always eager to ask questions, and despite having a lot of personal changes happening in her life, she didn’t let it stop her from excelling. I’m so happy she chose First Commonwealth Bank; they’ve hired multiple BankWork$ graduates, and it’s a perfect fit for her inquisitive nature.” 

Jasmine’s story is just one of many uplifting tales of how BankWork$ helps participants all over the country achieve their dreams. The program has a positive generational impact on the families of its graduates, empowering them with financial independence and stability. 

For Jasmine, her biggest inspiration and source of joy are her two daughters. “Their enthusiasm, resilience, and talents motivate me to be the best version of myself every day,” noted Jasmine. BankWork$ is an amazing program that goes beyond finding employment—it genuinely helps people. 

Learn more about BankWork$ at Energy Innovation Center with Partner4Work. 

From Russia to KeyBank: Yulia Maltseva’s Road to Success in Financial Services

Yulia Maltseva’s journey in financial services originally began in Russia, where, as a young adult, she developed a passion for accounting. After moving to the United States in 2019, she found ways to pursue her interest by volunteering in the accounting department at Goodwill Seattle. After discovering the BankWork$ program at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish through a coworker, she made the decision to apply to enhance her skills and further her career. 

Although Yulia initially encountered difficulties in communicating with others in class, she made significant progress over time. Refusing to give up, she persevered until she successfully graduated. “My instructors, Tracy and Melanie, were very patient with my language challenges and provided me with valuable knowledge about the customer side of financial services, such as teller transactions and client interactions,” said Yulia. 

After graduating from BankWork$ in November 2022, Yulia’s dedication paid off as she secured a Financial Wellness Consultant position at KeyBank after a successful interview. “My job at KeyBank is incredibly fulfilling, and I really love working with clients from diverse backgrounds, including many from Russia. Utilizing the banking system, setting up appointments, and engaging in discussions are new skills to me that I’ve learned to really enjoy, and being able to assist clients while pursuing my own financial growth makes my job truly rewarding,” said Yulia. 

Yulia recommends the BankWork$ program to individuals aspiring to secure rewarding jobs in the banking industry. “My advice would be to embrace the challenges, persevere through setbacks, and make the most of the resources and support offered by BankWork$. It doesn’t matter if you want to continue your career in the banking industry or to move into other business areas—the skills you learn will help you anywhere.” 

Learn more about BankWork$ at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. 

Rising Above: Angel Hall’s Journey to Find a Rewarding Career 

After Angel Hall experienced a difficult period where she lost her job and was separated from her children, she felt like she was stuck. Instead, she joined CareerWork$ Ready at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, graduating in August 2022, and she now enjoys her career as an AP Coordinator. 

“In early 2022, I got into some trouble due to a difficult life situation,” said Angel. “I lost the job I had been working at for five years, and it was undoubtedly my lowest point. However, my friends encouraged me to give CareerWork$ Ready a try, which is where I started to find hope through tremendous support.” 

Upon starting CareerWork$ Ready, a free job-readiness program designed for adults seeking their first job, Angel connected with her instructor, Angeline Sullivan, who played a crucial role in her transformation. “Angeline believed in my potential and helped me regain my confidence,” explained Angel. “She made me feel comfortable. I’m a very shy person, but after getting in there and talking to different people, I realized I’m not alone in my situation. There are actually a lot of people who have dealt with what I’ve dealt with. They pretty much let you know that life’s not over.” 

Initially hesitant and reserved, Angel gradually found her voice within the CareerWork$ Ready program. She recalled, “I was quiet at first, but after the first week, I was raising my hand and answering questions.” While enrolled in the program, Angeline provided unwavering support by praising her progress and celebrating her achievements. This encouragement and sense of belonging empowered Angel to thrive. 

After completing the program, Angel’s transformation continued. Equipped with newfound skills and confidence, she swiftly secured a job aligned with her aspirations. She explained, “Through CareerWork$ Ready, I learned a lot about interview techniques and was able to find a job that I love.” 

In her current role as an AP Coordinator, Angel’s day-to-day tasks involve managing vendor payments, resolving account issues, and overseeing budgeting. Having earned promotions and the trust of her company, Angel has successfully taken charge of major accounts alongside handling smaller ones. Her job has provided her with newfound confidence and a sense of accomplishment. 

Angel feels grateful for CareerWork$ Ready and the ongoing support she continues to receive from her former instructors. “It’s nice to know that I have the support of Angeline, the CareerWork$ team, the YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish team, and that people care enough to make sure I’m okay,” said Angel. 

Learn more about CareerWork$ Ready at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. 

From Tragedy to Triumph: Sabrina Green’s Journey to Success in Financial Services 

In 2011, Sabrina Green put her career on the backburner, after the birth of her daughter, to support her growing family. However, Sabrina’s life took an unexpected, tragic turn when her daughter passed away suddenly at ten years old. While navigating through tremendous grief, Sabrina learned to believe in herself and pick up the pieces of her life, and after graduating from BankWork$ at Philadelphia OIC in 2021, she now works as a Personal Banker at Santander Bank.

“When my daughter passed away, I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t,” said Sabrina. “I knew I had to do something to restart my life. I had a few retail jobs, but I didn’t know what I could find without having professional experience. I looked online for free programs, which is where I found BankWork$ at Philly OIC.”  

At 30 years old, Sabrina started the BankWork$ program in September 2021 and graduated in December. Although she didn’t know what to expect when she first started, she enjoyed the process of dressing professionally, which made her begin to change her mood in a more positive direction. Sabrina found learning the information in BankWork$ a breeze, while she gained a sense of confidence, and formed bonds with people from different ethnicities. 

Sabrina was heavily inspired to be like her instructor, Shantelle Faision, who impacted her life significantly. Shantelle also worked at Santander Bank in the past and continues to provide assistance to Sabrina to this day. “I don’t know how I would have succeeded without Shantelle’s guidance,” said Sabrina.

On graduation day, Sabrina met with local companies hiring for financial services roles. She interviewed with five different banks and got more confident in her abilities after each interview. Although she got several different offers, including a supervisor position, she chose Santander Bank due to feeling a strong connection.

Sabrina began her career at Santander in December 2021 as a full-time teller. In this role, she warmly greeted customers and efficiently managed various day-to-day responsibilities. Due to her exceptional work ethic and outstanding customer service skills, Sabrina was recognized as the top performer at her branch in 2022. Recognizing her talent and dedication, she was promoted to the position of Personal Banker in February 2023. As a Personal Banker, Sabrina now focuses on strengthening client relationships and establishing a strong rapport with them.

Sabrina is thrilled to have a career and be able to provide for her family. “I didn’t grow up in a great neighborhood, and it’s awesome to be in a career where I can always have opportunities to grow. I’m able to send my kids to private school, and it’s so rewarding to be able to support my family,” she said. “Without this program, I have no idea where my life would be and I’m so grateful for all it has given me.” 

Learn more about BankWork$ at Philadelphia OIC. 

From BankWork$ to Banker: Nicole’s Journey of Providing for Her Family

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.” 

Click here to learn more about BankWork$ at A New Leaf.