The Year Up Wilmington graduate, who came to the U.S. at 14 years old, now works full-time in client services at JPMorgan Chase.
When John Corkum was a child in Ethiopia, he thought he had to look skyward for opportunity. The planes from Ethiopian Airlines — one of the largest companies in the country — often flew over his neighborhood, seeming to be his ticket to success. But once John embraced his quiet drive, a willingness to explore and a passion to learn, he saw that opportunity wasn’t far away in the clouds. It was right in his reach.
After uncovering his voice at Year Up Wilmington and furiously studying during his internship at JPMorgan Chase, John has landed a career in client services at the global financial services leader. To earn his spot, John had to pass three exams during his internship, which he did with flying colors.
I want people in corporate America to know that they should bet on Year Up students. They won’t disappoint you.
Client Services Associate, JPMorgan Chase
John’s path to Year Up Wilmington and JPMorgan Chase started at an Ethiopian orphanage, which he moved to when he was 10 years old. A Maryland family adopted him from afar and moved him to the U.S. at age 14. He was in a new country, living with people he hadn’t met before, learning a new language.
As John navigated his life in the U.S. after high school, he tried a few different job training programs. When he was furloughed from a position in public transit, he decided he wanted something completely different. He wanted to see all that this country had to offer.
With his parents’ help, John bought a 15-passenger van, converted it into a house on wheels, and traveled to three different national parks: Shenandoah, the Everglades and Acadia. Once he returned, he heard from friends in Virginia about their success with Year Up. He decided to apply and was accepted into the 2021 Wilmington cohort, which occurred mostly online due to the pandemic.
The virtual platform could have allowed John to retreat into his quiet nature. Year Up instructors, however, made extra efforts to call on him, encourage him to participate and allow him to find his voice. With that support, John built strong connections with his classmates and instructors, participating in the program right from his van. He took college classes in economics — the first time he had learned about the subject. He asked for feedback as much as possible.
“All of the Year Up staff really cared about the students,” John said. “Even doing it online, it still felt like everybody was focused on us.”
And John took those lessons to his internship at JPMorgan Chase. To qualify for a full-time role in client services, John would have to pass the FINRA SIE exam during his internship and two more, Series 7 and 63 exams, once he secured a full-time role. He devoted his time to communicating with his manager and studying as much as possible.
“My manager told me that I worked hard and caught on to things quickly, but that I needed to build confidence,” John said. “Corporate America was different than what I was used to. But as time went on, I started to get comfortable.”
Comfortable was an understatement. John passed the SIE exam after his first month of studying, and JPMorgan Chase decided to hire him full-time based on his standout performance. He passed the Series 7 and 63 exams shortly after joining the team as a full-time employee.
When I got that phone call, it was hard to contain my excitement. Now, even though I’ve been full-time for almost a year, I’m still learning new things every day.Client Services Associate, JPMorgan Chase
John has high hopes for his career trajectory at JPMorgan Chase, and his success there has spurred developments in other arenas. After John was hired full-time, he got married, and he and his wife are planning to buy their first home.
“This job has brought us security and safety,” John said. “It’s helped us become more independent.”
Now, instead of waiting for instructors to call on him, John is sharing his story with Year Up students as they go through the learning and development phase. He works closely with a Year Up intern on his JPMorgan Chase team, and he and another Year Up alumnus at JPMorgan Chase often meet for lunch to share stories.
The 15-passeneger van, though? It’s still in his driveway. The vehicle is a reminder of how far he has traveled and the independence he has built for himself.
“Passing those tests and earning a full-time job was one of my proudest moments, because I didn’t have any knowledge about finances until I did Year Up and came here,” John said. “It changed my life.”