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Year Up graduates reflect on a challenging year

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We introduced you to five members of the Year Up program in April, asking them first about their expectations and fears entering the program and then, a few months later, checking in to see how things were going in a program that started with classes at Wilmington University; workshops on personal development and soft skills from the Year Up team; and then finally internships at Wilmington-area companies. The program has been described as interactive, project-based learning that provides wrap-around support, and they all agree with that. We brought them back together a few weeks before graduation as they prepared to start new full-time jobs or waited for final word on new opportunities.

What was the biggest surprise for you in the program?

Nicolas Thompson: How much I really was able to learn and retain and adapt to my environment. I was really, really overwhelmed. This is our first real experience being in financial services, so you’re being thrown into an ocean at a place like JPMorgan Chase.

Lyric Tucker: I was surprised that people were so welcoming and didn’t really treat me any differently. I never felt like I was being talked down to or anything like that. I felt just as normal as if I’d worked there 50 years just like everyone else.

Kimona Barnaby: How much really goes into the back end of things when it comes to private banking and client information, if you screw up one thing, a bunch of teams can get affected.

Avante Cannon: The culture. It’s a lot of different personalities, a lot of different cultures, and a lot of different diversities that you can mix and mingle with. You can definitely find your place and actual comfort zone and meet a lot of different people.

From left, Lyric Tucker, Nicholas Thompson, Avonte Cannon, and Kimona Barnaby. | Photo by Ron Dubick

What did you do better than you expected?

Tucker: I didn’t think I would find so much joy in kind of understanding the new [Year Up] cohort when they came in recently. What really surprised me was that I would enjoy being a mentor to these kids and that I would want to even come back and speak to people about the program so much. 

Barnaby: Something that surprised me was how family oriented our group became during our L&D. I wasn’t expecting to come here and have people I can rely on and depend on.

Thompson: I gained a lot of empathy throughout the learning and development stage. I know it sounds crazy or kind of like mean, but I never really thought that I’d be as genuinely happy for people as I am just seeing. 

Taylor Brown: I learned I was really good at computer programming and computer languages like Java. I got the hang of it earlier than others.

Ronald Shackleford Jr.: For me, I was always kind of intelligent, but I was lazy and got bored easily. I surprised myself with my persistence; it was one of my biggest fears going in. I just wanted to finish, and I finished strong.

Best thing that happened to you during the program.

Barnaby: I was so struck when I met [Chase Market President] Tom Horne. He ignited a fire in me to actually work even harder, go even harder for getting a job with JP Morgan because I was like, “These leaders that we have are so freaking awesome.”

Thompson: I would say it’s all the connections that I made. I sent out an e-mail about job openings on a Friday and we met up on Monday, and then he called me and told me that, “You’re definitely someone that we need to work with. So I’d say that’s the best thing that’s happened.

Tucker: I had an issue that came up and felt like I needed to talk to my manager’s manager. I see her every day, but I don’t get to really chat with her, but I reached out to her and asked her for a little bit of her time just to pick her brain. She gave me more than what I was asking for; she cleared her schedule and sat down and gave me great feedback about how I was actually doing. It’s one thing for people to say, “Yeah you’re doing good or you could do better here.” It’s another for them to literally sit with you and give you examples on how you can do better.

Cannon: I made a lot more connections and relationships than I expected. Going into the program I was focused on how I was going to complete it and how I was going to be successful. I really think that’s the most impactful thing that has happened to me and it made me realize that I had a lot of work to do and like working on myself and changed throughout the whole program. 

What do you tell people when they ask if Year Up is right for them?

Cannon: I tell people you have to put the work in. If you don’t put the work in, like nothing’s going to come to you, and they’re going to tell you that when you get here.

Tucker: Just last week, I called an Uber to take me home from work, and I got in and it was a young guy. He said to me, “I don’t want to be weird, but like are you in the Year Up program?” He explained to me that he was in Cohort Three, and then he fired himself. He said at the time, Year Up was his only job and he didn’t have any other source of income. There were a bunch of dramatic things that ended up in him having to leave the program. It’s not for everybody, and not only is it not for everybody, it has to be the right timing. I’m not saying the timing is ever going to be perfect, but I’ve definitely seen some people come in here, and you know from the start, “Oh, you’re not ready for this.”

Barnaby: I second that. You have got to be prepared financially to take that blow of giving up the money that you used to make.

Tucker: I was a bartender and I had to quit.

Barnaby: You’re going to have to be able to give that time up, that nine to five, be able to support themselves financially within that time period and have a great work ethic to get your work done and to come to work at 100%. You lose friends. They’re like, “What are you doing? You’re in that program?” “Yeah, and in a year I’m making 50 thousand. I’m not going to go to your party. I’m not going to go out and do this, that, and the third with you all the way in Philly, at 2 o’clock in the morning. I have class at 9:00 a.m. and I can’t be late. And I’m sorry.”

By Peter Osborne
DBT Editor


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