shanara-1Shanara 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, Shanara 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. Shanara 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 and Shanara was anxious and excited about the possibility of getting more education and an internship.

Shanara describes the first six months of the program as the “boot camp phase,” emphasizing the heavy work load 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.

Shanara 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 she decided that she wants to spend her career at Bank of America. After her internship, Shanara was trained in release processing at the bank, where she currently works.

Shanara said that her biggest lesson during her classroom work and internship was “not to sit back and be comfortable” with her life. She credits the dual assistance she received from 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.