Dreaming of a Career in Financial Services, Rozanna Vakhapova Found BankWork$ and Energized Her Career

Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Rozanna Vakhapova immigrated to the United States by herself in 2009. She had dreams of developing a career in the financial services industry. After discovering BankWork$ and meeting instructor Julian Hampton at JVS SoCal, Rozanna knew she had found her pathway to her dream career.  

In September of 2020, after moving to Los Angeles, she signed up for the program. Rozanna says, “I was so excited to get accepted! I loved coming to class every day throughout the winter. My classmates came from all different places in life, but everyone shared a hunger for chasing a career.”   

Upon graduating from BankWork$, all graduates attend a hiring fair with local financial instructions. Rozanna describes the interviewing process as “feeling like a celebrity. I have never experienced getting to do six interviews in one day. BankWork$ had trained me well for all their specific interview questions and I had answers prepared. I felt so confident in my abilities.”  

In February 2021, Rozanna accepted a position with Bank of America, starting as a Relationship Banker. She enjoys all the opportunities working at Bank of America has given her. “Every day I speak to different people. I also get to do many volunteer events through Bank of America. Every Saturday, I go to different foundations, where we teach financial skills to children.  I’m also getting to take classes with my support team. I love working with clients and meeting so many different kinds of people. I remember the location where I first opened my Bank of America account; now I want to make sure all my clients remember me.” Rozanna is now the Relationship Manager Business Owner Specialist, and provides financial expertise for small business clients.  

Rozanna credits BankWork$ Instructor Julian Hampton for being a key figure in shaping her career. “Julian is an amazing mentor. He always knows the words to say to give you perfect life advice. I’m so happy he’s impacted so many people that were not sure about themselves. He taught me to ask questions and be willing to learn.”  

Julian also speaks highly of Rozanna, saying, “Rozanna was a stellar student who consistently yearned for knowledge. As much as I pushed her to be her best, she also pushed me to be my best by asking questions and looking for the reason behind the answer. She would look up articles and videos about the economy and historical events and share them with me. This is what made Rozanna a joy to teach. She has brought the longing for knowledge to Bank of America and used it to advance. I couldn’t be prouder of her.” 

Looking forward to her future, Rozanna is excited to continue to develop relationships and help her clients at Bank of America. Rozanna recently spoke at the last JVS SoCal graduation, congratulating the newest group of graduates. She commends BankWork$ for giving her the drive to pursue excellence. “Bankwork$ taught me to go the extra mile; whether that be calling back a customer, helping my coworkers, or staying focused to achieve a goal, I’m grateful for the skills I’ve learned from my time at BankWork$.”  

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with JVS SoCal, click here.   

Through Hard Work and Humility in BankWork$, Barbara Jimenez Found Success in the Financial Industry 

As a newly single mother just laid off from a retail job in fall 2017, Barbara Jimenez was feeling very discouraged about the future of her career. She was determined to get a position to help support her and her family, and knew stable scheduling, a chance to use her customer service experience, and opportunities for growth—along with a consistent paycheck and full benefits—were priorities. When she discovered BankWork$ in January 2018, she realized the program could be her pathway to success.  

Barbara, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, applied for instructor Michelle Branner’s inaugural BankWork$ class, then at JVS Bay Area. She faced obstacles from the beginning, when she couldn’t afford the business professional attire required in class—but got a push to go. “That first morning I wanted to go, but I didn’t meet the dress requirements. My mom encouraged me to attend anyway,” says Barbara. “I met Michelle, and she encouraged when I felt like I was completely alone and underprepared. She helped me find a thrift store where I could find professional clothes I could afford.” 

Barbara appreciated the diversity of her classmates, which included a wide range of age, gender, and nationalities: “We had lots of people coming from different countries, and several of them had degrees. I became friends with Sandy, a fellow single mother. We helped encourage each other. By the end of the class, I was giving students rides. All of our stories were different, but our goal was the same—to get a job in this field.”  

Upon graduating, Barbara, like all BankWork$ graduates, interviewed with several different financial institutions looking to hire following a job fair hosted by the program. She felt most connected to Bank of the West, where she accepted a job as Relationship Banker. “I had a great connection with that manager. I knew that I wanted to work with him. He hired me as a banker, and I was so terrified—but excited!” 

Barbara has continued to grow in her career—and has her sights set on even more growth. “Now, years later, I’m the Senior Relationship Banker, and we’ve been meeting our goals. I’m proud of myself. When I first got hired, I read everything. I learned how to process everything. I felt like I knew a lot more than some of the older bankers did. For example, I learned how to process international clients. My managers have told me that I’m going to be a manager someday. I know I’m not ready yet, because I still have some growing to do, but I’m excited to go down that path.”  

Barbara is thankful for the support of her instructors and the skills she learned in class. “BankWork$ helped give me the confidence to walk into a bank and know all my abilities. The banking side of things was just a little bit of it. Michelle taught me how to put numbers on my resume, stand out as a candidate, and negotiate a counter-offer. She is just phenomenal; she talks like your mother, sister, or friend. She gets to know you on a personal level. She gets to know your good and your bad. She will say things like, ‘this may not work for you, because you’re better than that and you should do this other opportunity.’ Michelle is a truly special and unique woman.” 

Michelle, who is now the BankWork$ instructor at Fremont Adult and Continuing Education (FACE) also spoke highly of Barbara, saying, “Barbara was the first person I interviewed at BankWork$. I saw her potential from the first day I met her. She was eager to start a career in banking. She showed up every day with enthusiasm and a willingness to help others to learn. All of her hard work has paid off and now she’s been in banking for almost five years. I am so proud of her accomplishments.”  

When Barbara reflects on her time with BankWork$ and her life situation prior to applying, her advice to anyone in a similar situation is clear. “It took a lot of guts for me to apply, but I knew I had people counting on me. Good people want to help you. Programs like this are flexible and understanding, and want to help you become a better version of yourself. Be honest about your situation, I know that’s what I needed to do.” Barbara excels in perseverance and her willingness to learn; throughout her career, her success will only continue to grow. 

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with FACE, click here. 

For Fiorella, Being Bilingual and Learning Additional Skills in BankWork$ Helped Lead Her to a Successful Career at Wells Fargo.

When Fiorella Reyes first came to the United States, she was passionate about pursuing a career in the financial services industry. Born and raised in Venezuela, she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to study English, and decided to try to find an opportunity in banking in January 2020.   

“At the time I was looking for a program to get into banking, but they were all so expensive. When I found an ad for BankWork$ at Employ Milwaukee, I couldn’t believe that it was free,” says Fiorella. She was excited for this new opportunity to develop her skills in finance and saw it as an investment in herself. “I sacrificed some time to do the program, and it totally paid off to get me where I am now in my career.” 

For Fiorella, who had previously had banking experience in Venezuela, her biggest challenge was making her resume stand out—and that’s where the BankWork$ curriculum was key. “In the class, they helped me strengthen my resume and showed me what recruiters were looking for. The interview practice we did gave me the confidence I needed to apply for jobs. I learned how to build my interview answers from beginning to end with vivid detail.” This extensive resume building and mock interview practice is a core part of every CareerWork$ program, so graduates leave the program ready to succeed in new careers. After their graduation ceremony, Fiorella attended a hiring fair with local financial instructions looking to bring on new talent immediately. She ended up with eleven different offers and accepted a role as a Personal Banker with Wells Fargo. “I enjoy working for Wells Fargo. I’m still friends with my previous managers, I feel like I could call them anytime, and they would give me advice. I just started a new position as Small Business Banker, which has been exciting.”  

Like many BankWork$ graduates, Fiorella’s ability to speak multiple languages has been an asset on the job. She was initially nervous to apply due to a potential language barrier hindering her success, as she learned English later in life. “I have friends scared to apply because of the language barrier. I was too, but don’t be afraid, you can still find a path as I did. There are positions available such as a teller, where you don’t have to have a whole conversation in English at first, and speaking another language can be an advantage. The more that you train yourself, the better your English will get. Don’t be afraid to have an accent. Everyone from tellers to managers has one. At my current branch, everyone speaks at least one other language.” In fact, 52% of BankWork$ graduates speak two or more languages, and many community banks recognize how important multilingual staff can be to reduce barriers to banking.  

Fiorella’s instructor at Employ Milwaukee, Adrienne Wright, describes Fiorella as a joy to have in class. “Fiorella had her eyes on the prize early on to land a career in the financial services industry. I knew she would be successful in whatever role she accepted. She eventually landed a position at Wells Fargo and stayed in touch throughout her career. It was no surprise that she would move up in the company with her passion to help others and her dedicated work ethic. We are so proud. Fiorella is a stellar example of a BankWork$ graduate,” says Adrienne. 

Fiorella feels gratitude towards her former instructing team. “I’m very thankful. They helped me put in the work and provided great feedback. Adrienne reaches out to me every few months to check in. I can tell she loves her job, and I think that shows well in the success of all her students. I had to make a lot of sacrifices when I was in the program. I could have spent those months working, but what I was going before BankWork$ wasn’t leading to a career, just paying the bills. Thanks to the time I spent doing the work in Bankwork$, I can now say I have a career in financial services.”   

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with Employ Milwaukee, click here. 

CareerWork$ Announces Delaney Bord as the Latest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

CareerWork$ is delighted to select Delaney Bord, a March 2022 graduate of the BankWork$® program from our training partners at Partner4Work and Energy Innovation Center Pittsburgh, as the fourth recipient of the CareerWork$ Marc Hill Rising Star Award! Delaney recently began her new career in financial services working as a Personal Banker at Dollar Bank in Pittsburgh. 

Beginning in Spring 2021, 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 cash award to enhance the start of their new career.   

The award is part of CareerWork$ ongoing work to open doors to meaningful careers – and honors the life, work, and legacy of the late Marc Hill, an instructor of both the BankWork$ and CareerWork$® Ready programs with CareerWork$ partner, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, who passed away in late 2020. Marc began teaching our BankWork$ courses in 2011 and then began teaching CareerWork$ Ready in 2020 as part of our response to the COVID-19 crisis. The lessons Marc shared with his students embody our values as an organization: respect, collaboration, equity, and inclusion.   

“I am incredibly grateful to be even nominated. Just hearing a few words about Marc Hill makes me feel so honored to get this award and have a chance to know his story. Bankwork$ has changed my life. Not only is BankWork$ an amazing program, but it has very inspirational and dedicated instructors, such as Tanya Bashor and Carmen Williams, who stop at nothing to make sure their students succeed. Words cannot even describe how truly thankful I am,” says Delaney. 

The CareerWork$ and Energy Innovation Center teams, along with Delaney’s colleagues at Dollar Bank, had the opportunity to surprise her with the news that she had been selected as the newest recipient from a pool of candidates across the country.   

“After we got off the video celebration, she was so appreciative, shocked, and overwhelmed with emotion that she was chosen. We are all so proud of her and all she’s accomplished,” says Kim Rodriguez, Assistant Vice President of Branch Administration at Dollar Bank.  

“Delaney was one of the best students I have taught. She was punctual, had perfect attendance, excelled on all of her exams, and asked thoughtful questions throughout. She made no excuses even though attending the Bankwork$ training for eight weeks was very challenging for her. Delaney was always positive and determined to place at a bank—and Dollar Bank is lucky to have her!” said Tanya Bashor, Delaney’s former instructor at Energy Innovation Center Pittsburgh.  

From all of us at CareerWork$, congratulations, Delaney! 

Shelley McHugh and Sara Sheldon From Career Path Services are Helping Students Grow Into Their New Careers Through BankWork$. 

In Lakewood, Washington, just south of Seattle, dynamic duo Instructor Shelley McHugh and Career Navigator Sara Sheldon lead the BankWork$® program with our partners Career Path Services. Shelley and Sara draw on their backgrounds in finance and human services in supporting students before, during, and after our free, eight-week comprehensive training as they learn the skills to thrive in a new career in financial services. For Shelley, that includes a career serving in the United States military and in banking. For Sara, that includes experience working at the Washington State Department of Health & Human Services. For both, the opportunity to support students going through this program is life-changing. 

Shelley and Sara believe a key part of the success of the BankWork$ program is that it teaches the industry-specific knowledge and the customer-facing skills needed to succeed and advance in careers: “For our students, BankWork$ is a package deal: it offers both the hard and soft skills they need,” says Sara.  

For both Shelley and Sara, working directly with their students and watching them grow during the training is a highlight of their jobs. “Often the person walking in the door is often not the person who walks out of the door,” says Shelley. “It’s so gratifying and exciting to hear from our graduates about milestones like promotions in their new career – and their new babies, too!”  

Like so many workforce development organizations around the country, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges and barriers to serving their community with the BankWork$ program. But working with our training partners around the country like Sara, Shelley, and Career Path Services, CareerWork$ adapted quickly, making classes virtual and creating virtual graduation celebrations and hiring fairs with local employers.

“We’re grateful we were able to pivot so quickly to virtual learning by using our Learning Management System,” recalls Shelley. “Now, information is at our students’ fingertips. It’s a great tool to help them be even better prepared for being in a bank. We’ve also learned to appreciate the value of being in person.” 

When giving advice to students considering BankWork$, Sara emphasizes that participating in BankWork$ is a smart bet for the long term. “It’s an investment that dramatically increases your chances of launching a lasting career in financial services.” 

Both Sara and Shelley are characteristically humble when talking about their work together, preferring to keep the spotlight on the graduates and their achievements. “Our graduates always thank us,” Shelley says, “but they did the hard work.” 

Career Path Services operates across Washington State, offering programs and services to help individuals and organizations meet their employment goals. Founded in 1971, their mission is to break the spirit of poverty through the dignity of work. They have been voted a top nonprofit to work for eight times in the last decade, and we are proud to partner with them to offer BankWork$ and CareerWork$ Medical.

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with Career Path Services, click here. 

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In Search of Stability, DaVonte Poole found BankWork$–and a Growing Career.

DaVonte Poole spent much of his early life filled with curiosity to see the world, but without the family or economic stability to fully stretch his wings. “I knew there was something more for me out there, that there were more than just the four corners of my Chicago block. I knew the world was bigger and I wanted to see it,” he said.  

After moving between different homeless shelters, he left Chicago for Alaska, where he discovered Covenant House of Alaska, a shelter in Anchorage. In Alaska, he worked several jobs in retail and hospitality—but one person changed DaVonte’s life. At NuVision Credit Union, DaVonte met LeeAnthony Jenkins, who recommended he joined their credit union and learn about the possibilities of working in the financial services industry. “From day one, LeeAnthony challenged me to learn everything I can about the financial Industry, and I accepted the challenge head on! He truly inspired me because I didn’t know that it was possible for someone in the financial Industry to look like me” says DaVonte. 

After moving back to Chicago in 2017, while he was also taking the Dovetail Project, a program for high-risk fathers to understand their importance in the lives of their children, DaVonte discovered the BankWork$ program at Association House of Chicago. He knew his limited interview and office experience was limiting his professional opportunities, and felt BankWork$ could give him the tools necessary to go farther in his career in banking.  He loved learning about professional roles he could take on. 

“The BankWork$ curriculum included panels of program alumni speaking about their careers, and I appreciated the insights. Being able to hear others’ stories of what they went through in the industry gave me tools to put in my toolbelt. I was constantly taking notes about every little thing.”  

After graduation, like all BankWork$ graduates, DaVonte attended a career fair with employers looking to hire. Wanting to learn from the ground level of how money moves as a teller, he interviewed for a position at a call center for Bank of America. “I had a great interview, and they offered me a position.” After eight months as a teller, he was promoted to a banker. 

After two years of working with Bank of America, DaVonte accepted a new job at Credit Union One as a personal banker, where he became interested in mortgages and credit cards. ” As a Banker, one of your primary roles is to achieve sales goals through providing loans. When I was at Credit Union One, I was able to sell over a million dollars in loan value, which was one of the highlights of my career.” In his next career move to BMO Harris, he developed skills in commercial and business lending. “I wanted to be multi-faceted when it comes to financial services.” 

In May 2022, DaVonte accepted a new role as Assistant Branch Manager at PNC Bank and is looking forward to supporting the next generation of bankers.  “I’m excited about this new job! I want to be able to train a new team of bankers. I know what it takes to be a banker, and I know the habits in order to be successful. If I’m given the opportunity to multiply myself, I know can take a branch to the next level. Hopefully, we can do some great things.”  

As DaVonte reflects on his career, he credits a combination of his own drive and the BankWork$ training he received. ‘Any time I received a no, I felt like I had to sharpen my toolset. I looked at myself in the mirror to figure out what was going on. You have to be your biggest motivator; when you are, nothing someone can say will knock you off your path. People told me I was crazy for wanting to be a banker. External supports can be few and far between on the road to success. I’m thankful for BankWork$ because it gives opportunities to individuals who would otherwise not even think about stepping into this industry. Because BankWork$ didn’t give up on me, I didn’t give up on myself.” 

DaVonte started off with very little encouragement in his career in the financial services industry, but through perseverance, determination, and confidence he has worked his way from BankWork$ graduate to Assistant Branch Manager. We are so excited to see how DaVonte continues to make an impact on the financial services industry. Congratulations on your continued advancement in your career, DaVonte! 

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with Association House of Chicago, click here.  

BankWork$ Class Observation Video

BankWork$ participants with Career Path Services in South Puget Sound, are entering week seven of their class, and graduation is just around the corner. Our team spoke with current participants about their experience, why they are doing the program, and what they’re most looking forward to about beginning their careers in the financial services industry.

Observing a BankWork$ Class: Success in Action

Hello everyone! My name’s Austin, and I joined CareerWork$ as our Communications and Development Specialist in March! One of my favorite parts of my job is hearing from incredible participants and instructors, and sharing their success stories so others can hear about their great work. 

This week Program Manager Dion Willis and I met with the BankWork$ class at Career Path Services in South Puget Sound. We observed participants in action as they practiced cash handling and dealing with different types of customers, and we heard from guest speakers from Olympia Federal Savings.

In chatting with several participants about their experience with BankWork$, I witnessed firsthand the impact this program is making on their lives. The class brings together participants from all over the world, from Tacoma to Sierra Lione to China, around a shared interest in achieving their career goals. Instruction staff Shelley and Sara teach the skills to succeed in the financial services industry, but each participant brings their own drive, determination, and dedication.  

I look forward to seeing these participants graduate and launch careers in the coming weeks. They are not only the future of the financial services industry, but also a reminder that success can come from anywhere. 

BankWork$ Gave Lisa Baldwin “The Reset She Needed” To Support Her Family and Reach Her Career Goals 

Lisa Baldwin was feeling professionally stuck. In October 2021, she was working full time in a warehouse, but neither that nor her previous roles were helping her achieve her personal goals. While looking for an opportunity to start a new career, she found the Bankwork$® program at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish.

“I saw this program as a chance for a career that wouldn’t lead to another dead-end job. I felt like I could do something with this, that I could go somewhere,” she says. While BankWork$ (and all CareerWork$ programs) are scheduled so participants can work while taking the course, Lisa was so ready for her next step that she quit her job to pursue BankWork$ with all her energy.   

Lisa’s favorite part of being in class was getting to know her instructors and fellow participants: “My instructors were a great support system, and I continue to stay in contact with them.” Her instructors at Seattle YWCA, Tracy Hinman and Melanie Wheeler, noted that Lisa had a strong determination to succeed despite her busy schedule. “Whenever I think about Lisa,” says Tracy, “a smile immediately comes to my face. She has had to overcome many personal challenges, but she bravely chose to use those challenges as her motivation for success, rather than as an excuse for stagnation or failure. Lisa projects positively, kindness, grace, and professionalism. It was truly a blessing having her in class.”  

After completing the BankWork$ program, Lisa connected with local recruiters from BECU at the post-graduation hiring fair. In December 2021, she accepted an offer from BECU and started her job by working in their call center. She describes her new position as a perfect match. “They give me the ability to work from home, which has been amazing for my schedule. I had already been a BECU member for several years and had a great experience with their service, and it has only become better as an employee.”  

In her new position, Lisa is looking forward to learning many different aspects of the banking industry to figure out where she wants to be long-term. “They encourage job shadowing, and I think I want to shadow a couple of different departments. I want to absorb all the knowledge I can, so I can decide which department is best for me.” 

Lisa’s dedication isn’t a surprise to instructor Melanie, who was struck by her drive from the beginning. “Lisa is such a strong woman! She had some clearly set goals for herself and her future, and she remained focused in order to reach those goals. I was so proud and grateful to be able to watch Lisa graduate, begin her new career at BECU, and reach so many of her goals despite so many obstacles that were in her way. She was so much fun to work with, and I hope she knows how proud of her we truly are!” 

As Lisa looks into the future for her career, when she reflects on her time in BankWork$, she encourages anyone thinking about signing up to “take the plunge and go into it with an open mind. I’m thankful for BankWork$, it gave me the reset I needed. We all have our ups and downs and have to reset life a couple of times, and I feel like the stars aligned because everything has worked out perfect with my new position.”  

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with Seattle YWCA, click here. 

For Jessica Ramirez-Jefferson, BankWork$® Helped Her Be “Part Of a Program That Wants Better For People In The World.” 

Jessica Ramirez-Jefferson never saw herself having the right experience to work in a bank. After many years in the restaurant industry, she thought a banking career was out of reach, even as she wanted the stability that a career in financial services would offer. 

In October 2021, while researching courses to enhance her workforce skills, she found the BankWork$ career-readiness program with our partners in the Bay Area, Fremont Adult and Continuing Education.  She jumped at the chance, and started the free class that fall.  

For Jessica, the most impactful takeaway from BankWork$ was “a greater sense of self-encouragement,” she says. “I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses, and because everyone encouraged each other we quickly became a family. I was so surprised to see myself succeed.” A bi-lingual speaker fluent in English and Spanish, Jessica was particularly impressed by the diversity of her class, and noticed that “within our class, we had people who spoke eight different languages.” 

Her instructor, Michelle Branner, praises Jessica as “a model student. She came to class every day motivated to learn more. Her personal strength not only empowered her, but it also inspired others to achieve greatness. It was a pleasure to have her in class.” 

Like all graduates of a CareerWork$ program, Jessica attended a hiring fair with employer partners in her area immediately after her graduation ceremony. She was hired by Comerica Bank, and in her new role as a Customer Service Representative, she has felt fully equipped to handle her responsibilities. 

Jessica was moved by how much the program and her instructor embraced and accepted her. “It touches my heart that they look for people like me, and gave me that push-up to help me.  That I found the class makes me so grateful. When people care enough to make the world a better place, it’s a beautiful thing.” 

Jessica is thriving in her new career. “I open the bank myself; I do dual control [transactions requiring a greater level of approval], I’m meeting clients, I do it all.” Working with customers with disabilities has been a special highlight for her: “I’ve made great connections with a customer who has a service dog named Molly, who always comes right to my window to greet me!” Jessica looks forward to advancing in her career, and hopes to eventually move into the mortgage and loans department. 

To anyone thinking about signing up for BankWork$, Jessica says “try it out and see if you like it! You won’t know until you try. If you’re ready to find out who you really are, this class will help you get there. It definitely inspired me to go further in my career. I’m so honored to be part of a program that wants better for people in the world.” 

To learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with FACE, click here.