Former Cristo Rey program intern Sandivar-Montano, standing, coaches current program interns at U.S. Bank. Photo was taken in office before COVID-19 pandemic.
When 16-year-old high school junior Carmen Saldivar-Montano first walked into U.S. Bank in 2014, it wasn’t with a parent to open a savings account. Rather, it was her first day of work and the start of a new chapter of her life.
And six years later, her story continues.
The U.S. Bank Prepaid Operations team began partnering with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis in 2012 to help with relatively simple day-to-day tasks. There are 37 such schools across the U.S. that make up the Cristo Rey Network and through its Corporate Work Study program, Cristo Rey provides multi-year professional employment opportunities for students like Carmen living in communities that may have limited educational options.
Many of the Cristo Rey students represent first-generation high school graduates and many live in homes where English is a second language, if it’s spoken at all. Carmen’s family was no exception.
“I was really shy when I first came to the bank,” Carmen said. “I’d never been around people who worked in a corporate environment. But my supervisors introduced me to people across the department and everyone wanted to know more about me. That made me feel welcomed and fortunate to work in a place like U.S. Bank; I wanted to make sure my managers could count on me.”
Carmen spent her final two years of high school working one day per week and rotating Fridays with the Prepaid team. That she held her own alongside her older, more experienced U.S. Bank colleagues is an understatement. During her internship she took on increasingly complex tasks to assist the team wherever needed. She was even invited to stay on during the summertime – a coveted role that was only offered because of her outstanding performance at work, and in the classroom.
Upon high school graduation, Carmen left the bank to begin her college journey, however, unforeseen circumstances necessitated her return to the Twin Cities area not long after starting. Undaunted and industrious, she contacted her Prepaid friends and mentors and was hired full time in the fall of 2016.
“Carmen was often assigned high visibility projects, which she handled with ease and a ‘can-do’ manner,” said Michelle Villars, one of Carmen’s initial U.S. Bank mentors. “Even when the team was faced with high volumes and difficult tasks, she powered through. She was collaborative, she asked the right questions and she put customer interests first, which made their experience with us more enjoyable.”
In 2017 Carmen assumed the management of the Cristo Rey interns and since then has emboldened the bank’s relationship with school administrators. In addition to presenting the Corporate Work Study program to other U.S. Bank leaders, Carmen assists the interns with their year-end presentations to company leaders, school personnel and parents where they get to showcase what they’ve learned in the program.
Carmen’s intern-to-full-time-employee story continues to inspire Cristo Rey students today.
When she’s not mentoring or training interns, her day job is spent assisting her managers in developing better ways to improve processes, and other high-priority tasks needing completion quickly with little room for errors; she loves it. So much so that while her immediate plans are to continue to work full time, she does envision a day where she’ll re-enroll in school in pursuit of a career that will further her passion for investigation and research.
If that day comes, there’s little question that she’ll succeed at that too. Since being hired full time, she’s already received one promotion, and was recently named a Legends of Possible recipient for 2019, an award presented annually to the top performing employees across U.S. Bank.
“At first I didn’t believe it when I found out I was a Legends recipient. I thought that it required a higher position, or more years of service at the bank to even be considered,” Carmen added. “I’m really grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given to demonstrate my skills and work ethic and be recognized – at my age – for the work that I’ve done.”
Written by Dan Endy of U.S. Bank.