U.S. Bank is one of five organizations housed within the Bellevue University center as part of a unique partnership.
Not long after the first waves of COVID-19 swept across the country, Gina Ponce opened El Camino Latino Center at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska, to fill a need in the community.
“My passion has been to serve the Latino community,” said Ponce, the executive director of El Camino Latino Center. Ponce, who supported Latino students through scholarship distribution and advising over the years, shared that "one of the things left to do was career development. A lot of companies in the area were asking me to connect them with college graduates who are bilingual. We could take steps to bridge that gap by housing corporations on campus.”
El Camino Latino Center, which supports high school and college students as well as their families, is now home to a partnership unlike any other on campus. Inside of its walls are five organizations, including U.S. Bank, that provide access to educational resources and people in a variety of career fields.
“We identified organizations based on the credibility they have in the community and that I can trust with my children,” said Ponce. “Bringing in U.S. Bank is about education, matching with students and helping young people understand that banks do more than just keep and disperse your money.”
Every week, U.S. Bank branch and mortgage employees travel to Bellevue University to office in El Camino Latino Center. It’s there that they are available to all students, providing insight into a career in banking, financial literacy resources and access to services all in one spot.
“To see that there is diversity – that they are not alone, and they can make it – is a beautiful opportunity for young people,” said Rossana Esteva, a mortgage loan originator for U.S. Bank who offices one day a week at El Camino Latino Center. “To see other Latinos in corporations like U.S. Bank – to know there is someone there to help and coach them – is a great thing. That service to the community is why I want to do this.”
Esteva is one of nearly half a dozen bankers who have volunteered time at El Camino Latino Center. Among them are Kristin Cox, a mortgage loan originator, and Jorge Berrios, a member of Omaha’s Puerto Rican community and a performance coach at U.S. Bank.
“When it comes to the Latino community, the experiences are so different,” said Berrios. “The circumstances of my Mexican and Central American colleagues are so different from mine – as are those of my South American colleagues. To be able to help these communities find their way financially, and live the American dream, is an amazing opportunity.”
Beyond supporting students in this way, U.S. Bank employees came together for El Camino Latino Conference in February to provide 75 high school students from across the state insight into careers in banking.
“By the end of the conference, students knew all the things about the company and can connect with them now that the conference is over,” said Ponce. “They heard from people about what it takes to do their job, what challenges they faced and what they would have done differently. College students also shared their experiences looking for work.”
It’s this work, connecting students of all ages with professionals and providing insight into careers, that drives El Camino Latino Center toward its goal of supporting Latino students as they prepare to enter college, graduate, and look for work. Latino students at Bellevue University will receive one-on-one support from the center's college experience coach, Moisés Saucedo.
“To be able to partner with El Camino Latino Center, and the nonprofits housed within it, offers an opportunity to partner with those out in the community,” said Autumn Dillon, a mortgage branch manager in Omaha. “When you get a group together of likeminded individuals, you can make a huge impact.”
At U.S. Bank, support for the Latino community stretches beyond the walls of El Camino Latino Center and into communities across the country – whether it is being a proud supporter of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture in California or working in collaboration with Mercado on Fifth in Moline, Illinois, to provide financial wellness classes to minority-owned businesses.
“We strive to partner with and support the Latino community in ways that are meaningful and impactful,” said Marcos Hernandez, a community affairs manager based out of Omaha. “We meet the community where they are at – by offering in-language services, partnering with local organizations like El Camino Latino Center or by providing financial products that support historically underserved communities in cities and towns across the U.S.”
To learn more about how U.S. Bank supports our Hispanic customers, visit Hispanic Heritage | Celebrate your culture | U.S. Bank (usbank.com).
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