Shawnna (Shuler) Washington

Before Year Up, I was working dead-end jobs to help my family with bills. I wanted to go back to college, but I knew that would mean less money I could bring home. I just felt there was no way I could do both, and I felt stressed and unsure about my future.

Then I got a tip from my old high school advisor. When I told her I couldn’t go back to school, she was devastated and instantly told me about Year Up. I thought about it all night and realized I had nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. I inquired about an open house the very next day.

Year Up is where I finally found my confidence. The project that helped me learn the most about myself was building my personal brand. I had to “sell” myself with a logo, a catchphrase, and some qualities that make me unique. That was the point when I realized I’m worth so much more than I had allowed myself to be. From that point on, I gave 200% all the time.

My greatest challenge was keeping financial hardships from getting in the way of my goals. My Year Up staff advisor was a program alum, and seeing the amount of success she had at a young age motivated me to be just as great. She never cut me any slack and held me to high standards, and that was exactly what I needed.

I interned at JPMorgan Chase as a Quality Assurance tester, which also included project management work. I thought I would just be fetching coffee for the senior staff, but they kept me busy. The most important thing I learned as an intern is that people are willing to work with you if you want it bad enough. I wasn’t the most tech-savvy person, but I quickly figured out who I could turn to get the answers I needed. I was eager to take on more responsibility, so I was thrilled when the company offered me a position. I couldn’t wait to be hands on with bigger projects.

I currently work full-time as a Project Manager Consultant at JPMorgan Chase. The thing I love most about what I do is that the day always brings new challenges. Dealing with technology, you never know what issue may come up, and working with so many smart people you can learn from is amazing.

My life changed drastically within this one year, and I am so glad I committed and completed the Year Up program. My plans now involve going back to school to major in project management and minor in technology.

Year Up can be the foundation to a new you. We have to take the tools we are given and build the life that we want. Young adults may not be perfect, but we are perfectly capable.