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. 

Transforming Lives in Healthcare: Karina Gallardo’s Impact in CareerWork$ Medical

With her warm and welcoming demeanor, Karina Gallardo has been a guiding force, shaping the aspirations of future healthcare professionals at JVS SoCal’s CareerWork$ Medical program in Los Angeles. 

Starting as a medical receptionist, Karina understands the intricacies and demands of the administrative side of healthcare. Through her own journey from volunteering to interning, she gained invaluable insights into the healthcare ecosystem, allowing her to relate intimately to her students’ aspirations and challenges. 

Karina’s healthcare journey began in high school where she volunteered, and it continued throughout her college years. She combined her biology studies with internships, creating a blend of education and practical experience that prepared her for her initial professional role in healthcare. During college, her journey continued as she interned while pursuing her biology studies, ultimately paving the way for her entry into the healthcare field. Her additional pursuit of counseling psychology further solidified her passion for working with students, leading her onto the path of teaching. 

Her introduction to the healthcare field involved internships and volunteering at the Los Angeles General Medical Center. She started as a Receptionist at Adventist Health White Memorial, later progressing to become a Program Coordinator, showcasing her growth and unwavering dedication. 

Motivated by her interest in counseling psychology and a strong desire to assist students, Karina found her calling in teaching through CareerWork$ Medical. Her background as a healthcare professional enables her to embody empathy and compassion, qualities she instills in her students. Her story stands as an inspiring example for those aspiring to enter the healthcare field. “I adore working with students and always yearned to teach, and CareerWork$ Medical has granted me that opportunity,” Karina stated. 

As an instructor, Karina has found her calling. With an affable and confident demeanor, she comfortably addresses her students, drawing from her own experiences to guide and enlighten them. “I think everyone comes with a little bit of hesitation about starting this program. But what I can say is, think about the bigger picture. Look at the light at the end of the tunnel. It might seem so far off, but once you’re done and once you’ve arrived, it will be worth it, because you can take this anywhere,” she advises her prospective students with an air of assurance. 

Throughout her career, Karina has embraced valuable lessons, one being the importance of building connections with her students. Understanding that trust can’t be forced, she strives to create an environment of understanding and respect, recognizing that everyone comes from unique walks of life. “I think it definitely comes back to my background. Counseling psychology has been very helpful in working with different type of characters and personalities, different people being adaptable, being flexible to everyone’s differences,” she explains. Her flexibility and adaptability shine through, making her classroom a place where every student feels valued and heard. “If we can mirror empathetic language throughout our classroom setting, we can bring that into the field,” she shares, emphasizing the significance of empathy in the healthcare industry. 

Karina sees being an instructor as more than just teaching. It’s about forming real bonds with her students, helping them develop, and cheering for their achievements. She feels incredibly happy when she witnesses her students beginning their healthcare careers or using their skills in different parts of life. 

Learn more about CareerWork$ Medical at JVS SoCal Los Angeles. 

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. 

CareerWork$ Announces Eric Lopez as the Fifth Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award 

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. 

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. 

How Yesenia Delgado Found Her Place in the Banking Industry 

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.”  

Click here to learn more about BankWork$ at Employ Milwaukee. 

For Five Years, Instructor Michelle Hector Branner Has Helped Aspiring Bankers Reach Their Potential Through BankWork$

An Oakland native, Dr. Michelle Hector Branner has been teaching BankWork$ at Fremont Adult and Continuing Education (FACE) since 2017, helping to train and prepare program participants for entering the financial services industry. In February 2023, she graduated her 20th cohort and she can’t wait for the next class to begin. 

“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. 

Click here to learn more about BankWork$ and our partnership with FACE.