CareerWork$® Announces Deepa Suresh as the Latest Recipient of the Marc Hill Rising Star Award



CareerWork$ is delighted to select Deepa Suresh, an August 2021 graduate of the BankWork$® program with our training partner YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, as the third recipient of the CareerWork$ Marc Hill Rising Star Award. Deepa began her new career in financial services in Fall 2021 with Salal Credit Union in Washington State. 

Launched 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. 

CareerWork$ and YWCA staff, along with Deepa’s colleagues at Salal Credit Union, had the opportunity to surprise her with the news that she had been selected as the newest recipient selected from a pool of candidates across the country. 

“I am so grateful to receive this recognition, and to each and every person on the CareerWork$ and YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish teams. It feels good to be appreciated for who I am as I start my new career. Thank you for this honor,” said Deepa. 

“Our team is so incredibly proud of Deepa’s accomplishments and we’re honored to have her represent our program as she blazes a trail of success within the financial industry! We saw Deepa’s metamorphosis as she became a leader and force of light and positivity. While juggling two jobs and caring for her children, Deepa was able to make the BankWork$ program a priority by successfully making it to every class and completing all of her assignments. She challenged herself out of her comfort zone by volunteering to read and participate in class activities. She generously offered encouragement to her fellow classmates, and brought her laughter and insight to each class.  It came as no surprise that Deepa received multiple offers after graduation,” said Tracy Hinman, BankWork$ Instructor with YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. 

“We are thrilled to honor Deepa and to celebrate her perseverance, passion, and her growing career,” said CareerWork$ Director of Programs, Ranko Fukuda. “We know that Marc would be proud that his legacy has brought so many people together to celebrate Deepa’s success, and that his work continues to have impact as people move forward in their careers. We are excited to see all that Deepa does and to have her as part of the CareerWork$ family.” 

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


As CareerWork$ Continues to Grow Its Impact, We’re Seeking Our First-Ever Communications & Development Specialist

As CareerWork$® continues to grow its impact across the country, we’re seeking our first-ever Communications & Development Specialist to join our team.

CareerWork$ connects young adults from under-resourced communities to lasting, stable careers through free training, and builds supportive partnerships advancing equitable economic stability. We currently offer two free, eight-week industry-specific training programs, BankWork$® and CareerWork$ Medical®, and a free three-week industry agnostic job readiness program, CareerWork$ Ready. We partner with workforce development and social service nonprofits to operate our programs in 13 markets around the country, with plans to grow. CareerWork$ has helped launch over 4,000 meaningful careers, with an additional 1,000 anticipated next year. CareerWork$ is a small and growing team and highly values collaboration, innovation, and bringing a “how can we deepen our impact?” mindset to advancing our mission.

Click here to learn more about this opportunity with CareerWork$ and how to apply:


Graduate Spotlight: For Jonathon Frank, BankWork$® Helped Create A “Pathway” and “Seamless Transition” to A Growing Career


Jonathon Frank’s career path has spanned a collegiate basketball court, some of New York City’s most iconic buildings, a serious, life-altering injury, and – more recently – the BankWork$® career development program, and a growing career in financial services. 

A New York native, after completing his undergraduate degree in business management at Long Island University while also starring as small forward on its basketball team, Jonathon embarked on what would become a 15-year career in New York City’s construction industry. During that time, Jonathon helped construct 10 high-rise buildings that now dot the city’s skyline – including the Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan. 

But in 2014, Jonathon suffered a major neck injury at his construction job. He was left temporarily paralyzed. Once one of the fastest players on the basketball court, Jonathon now had to learn how to walk again.  

He began a new chapter in his life and career with a cross-country move to Los Angeles, where he explored a career in real estate but found it wasn’t a good fit. A professional contact introduced Jonathon to Julian Hampton, Associate Director of JVS SoCal, our partner in the Los Angeles area.  

Initially, Jonathon remembers, after speaking with Julian he remained “pretty skeptical” about pursuing a career in financial services. For him, it was a “completely different world.” But Jonathon wanted the kind of stability BankWork$ offered, so he gave it a try. That skepticism soon waned. 

While he had extensive customer service experience from the real estate industry, Jonathon says he needed to “learn the language” and industry-specific skills that BankWork$ provides. “As I went through the program, I realized I had a knack for this. By the second week, I was like, ‘I think I can do this.’” He also credits Julian’s steadfast encouragement as he completed the program in Fall 2021. 

Like all BankWork$ graduates, after a celebration ceremony Jonathon participated in a career fair and interviewed with employer partners in the region. Jonathon admits he was nervous going into the interviews – “I hadn’t done a job interview in 15 years!” – but says the program’s mock interview practices were important preparation. After receiving multiple offers for jobs with career growth potential, Jonathon accepted a role as a Relationship Associate with City National Bank, where he started in March 2021. 

For Jonathon, his career in financial services has been a “seamless transition” from BankWork$ and “beyond expectations,” as he built relationships with his clients and “experiences who they are.”  

BankWork$ is a wonderful opportunity. It creates a pathway. You can’t get that kind of knowledge and experience anywhere else,” says Jonathon. “It set me up perfectly to walk into this industry with my feet planted firmly and with a lot of confidence. But you have to be committed.”  

Like so many BankWork$ graduates, Jonathon has also begun wearing another hat: an advocate and evangelist for the program, as he’s already recruited two friends to BankWork$. 

Want to learn more about the BankWork$ with our partners JVS SoCal? Click here.  


Graduate Spotlight | Iraq Native and BankWork$ Graduate Saif Al-Sammarraie’s Advice to Prospective BankWork$ Students: “Enroll and Change Your Life”

Saif Al-Sammarraie ‘s journey to his new career in financial services in the United States began nearly 7,000 miles away in his native Iraq.

That’s where Saif completed his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and then began his career working as an instructor in the computer center at the University of Baghdad.

In the face of civil war, in 2006 Saif moved with his wife and parents to Syria, where they lived until 2010. During much of that time, Saif worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as an informational technology expert.

In 2010, Saif and his family had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, but it wasn’t until a week before their flight that Saif and his family—non-English speakers—learned they’d be going to Washington State. After settling in the Puget Sound area, Saif showed a tireless persistence to seize opportunities for him and his family: he not only enrolled in ESL classes, he also found a job working as a cashier at Target. Then, he enrolled in a local community college, and then transferred to a four-year university, where he earned his degree in Accounting and Finance.

After exploring careers in accounting, Saif soon got wind of another opportunity: the BankWork$ program with our Seattle-area partners, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish.

Then-YWCA BankWork$ Career Navigator Dion Willis – now a Program Manager with CareerWork$ – was one of the first people Saif talked to when he was exploring BankWork$. Part of the Career Navigator role is to help potential students determine whether it’s a fit for their goals; once Dion shared the focus on both the soft skills needed to thrive in a career and the industry-specific curriculum, Saif knew BankWork$ was the right next step on his career path.

Saif’s BankWork$ program began in January 2020. “The program was totally amazing. I learned a lot of new things. I learned about work culture and employers’ expectations for their employees, and what is the right behavior and how important commitment is, even if you have the knowledge of the financial services industry and the technical skills.”

Following his graduation, Saif began interviewing with employers across the region. Like so many people around the country, the ongoing pandemic proved challenging for Saif’s search. But last fall, Saif started his career in financial services as Member Services Associate in the Seattle region with our employer partner Gesa Credit Union. And in June 2021, less than a year after he joined the credit union, Saif was promoted from Member Services Associate to Personal Financial Representative.

“I showed them that I am committed and knowledgeable,” says Saif. “They liked what I had learned from BankWork$.”

“Saif is the epitome of determination and professionalism.  He never stopped looking for that right position for him.  He is an example of why it’s so rewarding to be a Career Navigator,” said Dion Willis. “I’m honored to have worked with Saif and look forward to watching him maximize his potential!”

“Saif was a model student, showing up to every class with an eagerness to learn, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to support and encourage his fellow classmates,” says Tracy Hinman, BankWork$ Instructor with YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. “We were honored to have him share his inspirational story as the Alumni Speaker at our recent graduation. It is hard for me to put into words how extremely proud we are of Saif. He never gave up on his goal, even when the challenges he faced seemed unsurmountable.”

Today, Saif’s advice to anyone considering the BankWork$ program is to “enroll and change your life. BankWork$ doesn’t only teach you about banking. It teaches you how to adapt and thrive in the workplace and be the kind of employee your employer needs.”

“I know I’m on the right path to build a future for myself and for my kids. I’m grateful for the opportunity I got to come to the United States, to get an education, and then enroll in BankWork$ and, now, work as a banker,” says Saif. “It helps me make sure my kids are on the right path and they can get an education and succeed here.”


From the Ivory Coast to a Financial Services Career in Washington State, Graduate Justine Sakou Says BankWork$ Was “Life-Changing Experience”


Justine Sakou’s journey to her current career in financial services crosses continents. 

A native of the Ivory Coast and native French speaker with a degree in accounting and finance, Justine immigrated to the United States with her husband in 2008. After settling with her family on New York’s Long Island, for the next five years Justine worked as an assistant manager of a gas station. Then, in 2013, Justine moved with her family to the Seattle area and focused on raising her four children. 

By 2021, Justine was eager to rejoin the workforce in a role beyond retail.

“I knew I wanted to have a career in financial services and was hopeful my background and education in accounting and finance would help me find something,” Justine recalls. “But I did not know where to start.”  

It was then that a friend recommended BankWork$® to her. 

After talking with our training partner YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish about the CareerWork$® training programs they offer, the team suggested Justine apply for BankWork$®. She was accepted, and this summer, she began the eight-week program, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I like to learn, and it was something that I was looking for. It was challenging.” 

Justine started the BankWork$ program while her four children attended school remotely and her husband worked from home due to the pandemic. Despite those challenges, Justine excelled. She impressed her instructors with her work ethic, and her confidence grew by leaps and bounds over the eight weeks. 

After celebrating with her family at the BankWork$ virtual graduation ceremony, Justine participated in the virtual career fair, where she interviewed with BankWork$ employer partner Key Bank and quickly received an offer. 

So in July 2021, decades and continents removed from her early interest in finance, Justine began her career in financial services as a Financial Wellness Consultant at one of the Key Bank’s Seattle-area branches, just 15 minutes away from her home. 

“It’s been a great experience so far. BankWork$ really prepared me to get the job and to be ready to do the training at Key Bank. It was the best program for me. BankWork$ was an open door.” 

Justine hopes others considering the BankWork$ program and a career in financial services will take advantage of the opportunity. 

“BankWork$ helps you be prepared for the real world.” 

For students starting the free eight-week, comprehensive career development program, Justine’s advice is to “take it seriously and work hard. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Give your all. That’s what will make the difference. At the end, your effort will pay off. That’s what happened to me. It was a life-changing experience for me.” 


Bilingual Graduate Adriana Flores Helps Serve Chicago’s Hispanic Community 

“If I don’t make this call now, then when will I?” 

That was the question Chicago resident Adriana Flores was asking herself in late 2019 as she considered applying for the BankWork$® program with our training partner Association House of Chicago. A friend who had already completed the eight-week, free comprehensive career development program and been hired immediately by an employer partner, had recommended it to Adriana.  

After working in retail early in her career, Adriana had been a stay-at-home mom the previous two years, and she was ready for a change. 

“I needed a better future for me and my son,” says Adriana.  

So Adriana made the call and applied for the BankWork$ program. In January 2020, Adriana started the eight-week career development program. 

At first, Adriana says, she was hesitant and out of her “comfort zone” after being out of the workforce for several years. But Adriana settled in; her instructor’s talent and the value of hearing from multiple employer partners from across the financial services industry, who spoke to the class about their different roles and approaches, helped her s 

In March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic growing, her BankWork$ program shifted to a virtual model. Instead of the typical in-person graduation celebration and career fair with employer partners, the graduates participated in a virtual format. 

After interviewing with several banks, Adriana accepted an offer from Chicago-based Byline Bank.  

“BankWork$ helped me get my foot in the door. That was the first step. They gave me the opportunity, and then it was on me,” says Adriana. After starting in a part-time Teller role, Adriana then took on a full-time role, and is now a Senior Teller. 

And Adriana isn’t the only BankWork$ graduate at Byline Bank: two of her fellow graduates from her cohort also joined the Byline Bank team. 

As a Senior Teller, Adriana brings another skill to help serve the mostly Hispanic community in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood: a native Spanish speaker, she is fluent in both English and Spanish. That’s allowed Adriana to help serve the bank’s Spanish-speaking customers, acting as a translator for many of their customers who don’t speak English.  

“Language accessibility is a challenge for many in this community to financial stability.”  

More than half of our program graduates are fluent in two or more languages, making banking accessible for communities where English fluency could be a barrier.  

As Adriana grows her career, her advice to others considering BankWork$ and a career in financial services it to “go for it. There’s a lot you can learn and you can pass a lot of that on to your family to help them be more financially stable. You never know what opportunities can come from it. Joining BankWork$ was the best decision I could have made. I made good friends who I have the pleasure of working with now and met a lot of great people along the way as well. I now have a stable career, and I can’t wait for what the future holds.” 


Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Bilingual Instructor Luz Hernandez with Partner Association House of Chicago Helps “Improve Lives and Communities”

Born in Michoacan, Mexico on a small farm, Luz Hernandez came to the United States with her family as an immigrant, as her parents worked to “provide us with better opportunities”– support she now provides to community members as a BankWork$® Instructor with our partner Association House of Chicago.   

For Luz, her work is rooted in a strong desire to help those around her.  

Continue reading “Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Bilingual Instructor Luz Hernandez with Partner Association House of Chicago Helps “Improve Lives and Communities””

Three Ways CareerWork$ Adapted to Meet the Challenge of the COVID Pandemic and Continue Our Impact

Over the past 18 months, organizations across the country navigated the rapid changes of the pandemic. CareerWork$ worked closely with partners around the country to adapt, pivot, and pivot again—and as a result, we’re still marking milestones like graduations and job placements among our graduates.  

Here are three ways we adapted and continued our impact during the pandemic: 

A New Program: CareerWork$ Ready: Early in the pandemic, we launched a new job readiness programCareerWork$® Ready, a condensed, three-week program designed for individuals seeking their first job, as well as those who are looking to re-enter the workforce., in a broad range of industries. We provide community organizations with the curricula they need to offer virtual or in-person training for job seekers in underserved communities. The program leverages the curricula from our proven BankWork$® and CareerWork$® Medical programs and includes one-on-one sessions and group trainings with a job coach, creating a personalized experience in real time, and standing out from many other pre-recorded programs. 

Making Classes Digital: As we launched CareerWork$ Ready online, we also digitized our BankWork$ and CareerWork$ Medical® curricula, making it possible for our training partners to offer courses through hybrid models while complying with public health guidelines. Moving the curriculum content online meant students also gained digital skills and practiced holding virtual meetings and online collaboration tools—skills and experience necessary in the “new normal” for many careers. 

Making Graduations and Job Fairs Digital: Ask any graduate, or any employer—our graduations and job fairs, where each graduate interviews with each employer partner, is part of what makes CareerWork$ so impactful. We celebrate the hard work and dedication of participants, and they receive far more personal attention than they might during a standard job fair or online application process. During the pandemic, we adapted to ensure we could continue our graduations and jobs fairs by pivoting to a virtual model; immediately following the virtual graduation events, our graduates met 1:1 virtually with employers in their region for job interviews. As we look to the future, we are hopeful and energized for what’s next – especially as we recently hit an important milestone: 4,000 graduates placed into jobs with career growth potential.   

Thanks to these steps and collaboration with our training partners around the country, CareerWork$ is poised for our next phase of growth— expanding with new partners, new staff, potential for new training programs, and new ideas for the future. Our work has never felt more vital, and as the pandemic has highlighted the long-standing inequities for BIPOC community members, the need for our last-mile training programs has never been so clear. 


2020 BankWork$® Graduate Leah Bright Featured Speaker at Pennsylvania Bankers Association Young Professionals Conference

Leah Bright, a 2021 graduate of the BankWork$ program with our training partner Philadelphia OIC, was a featured speaker at the recent Pennsylvania Bankers Association 2021 Young Professionals Conference, where she shared her career journey to a role with our employer partner Citizens Bank 

Earlier this year, Leah was seeking a new career. Her mother first told her about BankWork$; she had seen a flyer advertising the program with Philadelphia OIC at her workplace.  

“I knew I had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Leah recalled. 

She applied, was accepted, and began the program in a hybrid model that was adopted during the pandemic, with some classes in person and others taught live via Zoom sessions. 

For Leah, the free, comprehensive, eight-week program offered the communications and workplace skills she needed to launch a new career, along with the industry-specific skills and knowledge. 

“Because of BankWork$, I could really understand and learn the ins and outs of the financial services industry.” 

In her remarks, Leah also thanked Philadelphia OIC BankWork$ Instructor Shantelle Faison for her support and encouragement before and after the program. Calling Shantelle her mentor, Leah said she “added fuel to the flame, which I needed at the time.” 

The day of her graduation in Spring 2021, Leah and her fellow graduates participated in a key feature of BankWork$: one-on-one interviews with multiple employer partners in the region. 

A week later, Leah received an offer from Citizens Bank. 

Today, as Leah grows in her new career, her goal is to “run my own branch and impact the lives of emerging leaders.” 

The Pennsylvania Bankers Association has been a strong supporter of the BankWork$ program since 2017, a key partner in expanding the program to Pittsburgh and an advocate for our programs with Pennsylvania banks. Their support of BankWork$ graduates like Leah is a testament to our shared commitment to opening more doors to meaningful careers in the financial services industry. 


“BankWork$ Gave Me the Blueprint to Launch My Career”: 2019 Graduate Tama Robinson Reflects on Her Path to Her New Career in Financial Services

Tama Robinson’s journey to her new career started with her car radio.  

The lifelong Milwaukee resident was driving when she heard an advertisement for the inaugural BankWork$ class with our training partner Employ Milwaukee. Tama quickly jotted down the number and made the call. With a new class starting in two weeks, Tama raced to meet the application deadline. After receiving support from Instructor Adrienne Wright, she applied online – and was accepted.  

For Tama, it was the right opportunity at the right time. After working in long-term care for a decade, she was eager for a transition into a career in financial services.  

“I knew I had a passion to help people – and I knew I wanted a career where feel like I did something to help someone that day. I knew I could transfer those skills into the financial services sector.”  

With her customer service skills from her career in long-term care, Tama was eager to dive into the BankWork$ program and learn the industry-specific skills she’d need to thrive in a new career. 

“As class started, I was able to take those transferable skills and move them into a new industry. BankWork$ put the puzzle together.” 

As graduation approached near the end of the eight-week program, representatives from several area employers came to class to speak with students about their hiring process and their culture. As part of the program’s post-graduation job fair, Tama had the chance to interview with a number of employers in the region immediately after the graduation ceremony. 

One of those banks was Prime Financial Credit Union, which offered Tama a position following her graduation. 

Since starting with Prime Financial two years ago, Tama has already been promoted – twice. Today, she’s an Assistant Branch Manager. 

“BankWork$ gave me the blueprint to launch my career,” says Tama. “They give you the outline, and then it’s up to you to fill it in to succeed.” 

“We had high hopes for our very first BankWork$ class at Employ Milwaukee, and like many of her peers, Tama thrived. Tama was hardworking, committed, and driven to build a new career,” said Adrienne Wright, BankWork$ Instructor with Employ Milwaukee. “We knew she would do a great job and be successful as she demonstrating care and leadership in class. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of a program supporting amazing people like Tama as they start lasting, meaningful careers.” 

For those considering the BankWork$ program, Tama says simply to “go for it. They put you in a position to succeed. You won’t regret it.”