WLA and Generation Universal Banker Program Graduates Second Cohort of Students
On Friday, November 9, the Wilmington Library became alive with young adults quietly whispering and occasionally laughing. Soon, they will become bankers. With smiles on every face, the joy in the room was clearly palpable.
With 2 p.m. quickly approaching, rows of chairs began to appear. People started filing into the room. From the people to the chairs, it was packed with a few standing in the back of the room. This is an exciting day for the 20 graduates of the WLA and Generation Universal Banker Program. With 5 weeks of hard work behind them, the future looks brighter.
A History of Generation In Wilmington
Generation, a workforce development non-profit is fairly new. They have done an incredible job changing the lives of more than 22,000 unemployed and underemployed youth around the world. Recently, they were the recipients of the 2018 WISE award for their work.
Four years ago Wilmington was one of a few kick-off locations for the organization. Victor Reece, Generation USA mentor lead, has been involved from the beginning. “It began with the Certified Nurse Assistant program. It was an 8-week program that ran 13 times. We saw a 96% graduation rate and an 88% job placement rate. Many of the students in that program were going from welfare to working with a majority of them going back to school to become Registered Nurses afterwords.”
After the CNA program, Generation worked with Wilmington Leaders Alliance along with WLA members M&T Bank, Capital One, and WSFS to create the 5-week course on banking basics. During the first cohort of students, 16 students graduated. As of the second cohort’s graduation, 8 students have accepted job offers, a majority of those went to work at Capital One. Two students from the current cohort have already accepted job offers.
The ‘secret sauce’ as Victor puts it, is support. The mentors and teachers of the program are still involved in the lives of previous students, even from the CNA program. This, coupled with the student’s support of each other creates the community many don’t get to experience growing up. Rarely do you see programs that create such an impact on students.
Words of Wisdom
Graduation started with opening remarks from Donna Tooley, the program coordinator. She reminded the crowd of how excited she was for seeing where the students have come since starting the program and reminded them that they always have a support group amongst their new Generation family. She applauded the class for persevering through different situations.
Donna then brought WLA Strategic Director Peggy Geisler to speak to the crowd. She spoke directly to the graduates.”We’ve given you tools so you can go where you want and be who you want, but every day it really is up to you.” In closing, she reminded the graduates how they spent 5 weeks in this program to improve themselves and that makes them amazing and special.
Ryan Dougherty, the director of customer success for Capital One spoke to the soon-to-be bankers during graduation. During the first cohort, he took time to visit the students and did the same for the newest class. He spoke on behalf of Capital One, “We’re excited to partner with WLA for this program. We were lucky to hire associates right out of the program to Capital One.” He thanked the crowd for their time and commitment to the program and wished them luck on the road ahead.
One Village Alliance and Wilmington Library Speak
Shonda Pitts, the President, and CEO of One Village Alliance also spoke to the graduates. One Village Alliance is a Wilmington based initiative that was founded with a mission to uplift children and their families on a holistic journey toward excellence through education, entrepreneurship, and the arts. Their goal is to facilitate thriving communities, strong families and healthy children. The WLA and Generation Universal Banker Program was housed in their facility for this cohort of students.
She was short but wanted to thank the Generation staff and students for allowing One Village Alliance to house the program. She reminded the soon to be bankers that “Everyone believes in themselves. It’s not enough to believe but you need to dream bigger. When you make a dream you create an agreement with yourself to move forward.”
One of the guest speakers of the graduation was Charles Shaw, the Community Engagement Advisor for the Wilmington Library. He spoke about his past experiences in the work world to help ensure the graduates don’t make the same ones. He started as a motivational speaker after college running his own business. Wanting to be a self-made businessman he went from working for others to focusing on his business. He told the graduates to not be afraid to work for others. “You can still be a boss and work for someone else.”
He encouraged the graduates to keep learning using whatever means necessary from youtube, books or going to see people speak about their career. Charles also made an important point to the crowd: everybody’s life story can change another person’s life.
Generation Employees Speak To the Student’s Growth
The teacher for the program, Antonio Stills, was next to speak. “It is hard to find a job that allows you to grow while you’re helping others grow.” He gave a background on what had happened this cohort. Classes took place in a small room, with students sitting side by side. The students took it in stride and showed empathy for each other helping everyone grow as individuals. He assured the graduates he believed in them and their talents.
Next to speak was Chris Fullman, the student’s mentor. He emphasized that the future bankers kept the mentality that they can do anything and told the story of a professional baseball player that received advice from a small kid one day that turned out to be true. Wrapping things up he told the crowd, “There is so much potential in all of you. Never stop growing.”
The first student to address the class was Kayla. She started by sharing her story which focused on 4 things: hope, experiences, doubt, and dedication. Kayla is a lifelong Wilmington native that has lived through a difficult childhood, her parents substance abuse issues. She felt as though she could only turn to the streets but truly wanted more for herself.
Kayla enrolled herself into Delaware Tech to start a better life for herself. After one semester her scholarship money had run out and needed to find a way to pay for school or change her life for the better. She asked around and came to one option: the WLA and Generation Universal Banker Program.
At first, she thought it was too good to be true. Kayla interviewed and was offered a slot in the class. To the surprise of many, she turned it down in hopes of getting a job. During the second week of the new cohort her job didn’t work out as expected and she reached out to Donna who let her return to the class. She continued to take classes, had to watch her father get sicker and got another part-time job on top of being part of the program. With her busy home life she was happy to be standing as a graduate of the program. In closing, she thanked the program for giving her hope for her future.
Second to address the class was Aaron. He thanked his unique and intelligent peers for speaking. He put the speech together that morning by removing the extra fluff in his life and words. “If I was going to fall, I would fall being excellent.”
He told his life story. He grew up in Wilmington sharing a bed with his family of seven. When he was eleven his mother and father were killed. From then he felt lost. It was not until that moment that he saw potential in himself.
Aaron opened up to the crowd, “What comes to mind when I think of Generation? I think of my children and my children’s children. For me, it is my community and the kids that walk the same streets I did. Its the people of tomorrow who will be inspired by my today.” He felt the program gave him the opportunity to change his life.
In closing he quotes Maya Angelou, “You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped. That’s your legacy.”
Student Spotlight: Araceli
Previously, we highlighted one student a week that was in the program. This time we took time before graduation to speak to one of the graduates from this cohort.
Araceli is an outgoing, calm woman. The 26-year-old heard about the program from friends in the previous graduating class. “I saw it as an opportunity to better myself. It gave me a new avenue to explore my own potential.”
During the 5-week program, she recounted how much she enjoyed the role-playing of real-world customer service scenarios. Already having ten years of customer service experience, Araceli enjoyed seeing other people grow from these experiences. While she enjoyed the work they did in class, her favorite part was seeing people from different walks of life come together for the same goal: to change their lives. With that sentiment, the most challenging part was watching the classmates struggle at times.
As Araceli stated, “You want everyone to get better. You want to motivate people to grow and not give up and quit but people become stuck in themselves.”
When asked about graduation she admitted when she started she didn’t have much self-confidence. She didn’t think she would make it through the program. Today she is excited to be one of the 20 graduates.
Look out for coverage on Cohort 3 which is starting in January 2019. Interested in taking part in the class? Apply by clicking here.