How one Year Up graduate, turned finance professional, came back to his roots with a $20k grant.
When Barry Bhagwandeen first heard of Year Up, he didn’t believe such a program could exist. A few years later, he has a job he loves, the opportunities he dreamed of, and the ability to give back. Recently, in Bhagwandeen’s position at Forward Financing, he nominated Year Up for a first-time impactful donation of $20k. Of seven nonprofits nominated for this corporate gift, Year Up won.
Alumni like Bhagwandeen, who lift while they climb, play key roles in closing the Opportunity Divide. However, Bhagwandeen openly admits that achieving his goals was not easy.
A story of perseverance
Bhagwandeen’s parents landed on U.S. shores, by way of Trinidad, in 1987. Growing up in Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston, Bhagwandeen felt keenly aware of the Opportunity Divide, much like other Year Up graduates: while fellow students cheerfully applied to universities, he balked at the massive expenses. Instead of attending college, he worked various odd jobs with his friend Gustavo, sometimes cleaning windows for only $20. Later, when Gustavo raved about a program that “pays you to go to school,” referring to Year Up Greater Boston, Bhagwandeen was skeptical.
However, when Gustavo’s Year Up experience snagged him an internship at a billion-dollar firm, Bhagwandeen took notice. By 2015, Bhagwandeen immersed himself in Year Up, scored his own internship, and felt a newfound, booming confidence. “When I started Year Up, my mindset was really on,” he explains. “I wanted to improve myself, more so than I ever had done.”
The path forward wasn’t a cakewalk. Bhagwandeen went through several jobs, some less rewarding than others, but he never gave up. He stayed up late to earn his degree, woke up at dawn for webcam meetings with his CEO, and always kept learning. Finally, he found his niche at Forward Financing, an ambitious fintech company that provides working capital to underserved small businesses throughout the US. Bhagwandeen has watched the company “literally skyrocket,” and never sees himself leaving.
Today’s gifts create better futures
In 2019, Forward Financing launched the Pay It Forward program, an employee-led, companywide initiative to donate $10 to a nonprofit for every business funded over the year, with one winning impact organization receiving a corporate gift each quarter. Bhagwandeen nominated Year Up, credited them for his success, and inspired the final decision. As co-founder and CEO Justin Bakes explains, “Multiple teams nominated Year Up as a deserving organization making an impact in our community. Once hearing Barry’s story and learning more about the Year Up mission, it was an easy decision to align with such a great organization.” Bakes adds, “We are proud to support Year Up in their mission to empower young adults to reach their potential and close the Opportunity Divide.”
Bob Dame, Year Up Greater Boston’s Executive Director, is equally excited. “We are so thankful for Forward Financing’s generous donation to support Year Up students,” Dame says. “It is fantastic to see alumni like Barry paying it forward, and we are proud of his professional success. I look forward to building a partnership with Forward Financing to support more young adults on their path to meaningful careers.”
Bhagwandeen hopes his story will inspire others. Just recently, a Forward Financing coworker began mentoring a Year Up student, and today, Bhagwandeen is genuinely proud of his own triumphs. “I don’t feel defeated anymore … I feel lucky to be where I’m at and empowered to help others.”