Through a partnership with Year Up, Bank of America provides internships to young adults who have not had the opportunity to work toward an advanced degree or full-time career. Two such interns are Shanara Smarr and Ruth-Ann Bowen.
Providing for her family
Smarr, an Atlanta native, found Year Up at a moment where she needed help to get a better job and provide for her family. After graduating from high school in 2008, Smarr went on to work several temporary jobs. In 2010, she gave birth to her son. He was premature and needed extra attention, so she decided to cut back her hours at a convenience store. Reduced hours turned to no hours when the business closed and she was laid off. Smarr was determined to find another job, but was concerned about prospects as she was five months out of the job market. Her cousin told her about Year Up.
Smarr describes the first six months of the program as the “boot camp phase,” emphasizing the heavy workload and the importance of committing to her future. In addition to taking care of her son, she worked hard to complete assignments at school after hours or at a public library, since she did not own a computer. Smarr was placed at Bank of America on the check processing team as her internship. She was nervous before she started, but really enjoyed her coworkers and the office environment, and decided that she wants to spend her career at Bank of America. After her internship, Smarr was trained in release processing at the bank, where she currently works.
Smarr said that her biggest lesson during her classroom work and internship was not to sit back and be comfortable with her life. She credits Year Up and Bank of America for helping her start a career, not just find a job. She encourages others considering the program to apply, strive to do your best and never give up.
I truly believe in the movement. Some of us just need a shot to show that we are bright assets to our companies and communities.
Year Up Graduate, Bank of America Employee
Becoming a career woman
Bowen always hoped to be a corporate woman someday, but did not have the financial resources to start a career she felt would be proud of. Luckily, she found Year Up. In the classroom, Bowen learned about networking and earned her Excel Certification. She balanced a part-time job to get through the first six months of classes. “Whenever I had to choose between gas money and food, I chose gas,” Bowen. “I knew that if I could just get through the program I would never have to make those choices again.”
She interned at Bank of America as a project coordinator, where she was soon handling on-boarding for new hires across the nation. She even received awards for perfecting the process. Then, Bank of America offered her full-time work as a process design analyst. Now, Bowen enjoys being in a highly visible area where she accomplishes something every day, whether processing a new employee, putting a presentation together, managing her senior vice president’s schedule or mentoring a Year Up intern. She sees herself growing with Bank of America and expects to start school in spring 2014 to earn her bachelor’s degree and a project management (PMP) certification.
“Without the skills and network Year Up provided, I don’t know how I would have landed this position,” said Bowen. “I truly believe in the movement. Some of us just need a shot to show that we are bright assets to our companies and communities.”