“What’s a need we can help you with right now?” Nancy Tuomie asked. She was on the phone with Kris Sommerville, a program coordinator for Academy of Finance, a St. Paul Public Schools initiative started by the Federal Reserve Bank that prepares high school students for jobs in the financial industry.
As the Director of Human Resources for BankCherokee, Tuomie often approaches conversations with an open mind and heart. She has led several community initiatives during her more than two decades with the bank. Tuomie is especially passionate about BankCherokee’s partnership with the Academy of Finance, which began in 2004.
Academy of Finance works with organizations interested in mentoring students and providing on-the-job training opportunities in banking and finance. Beatrice Diaz was the first program participant to work at BankCherokee. She was a teller for four years.
In 2010, BankCherokee began partnering with Como High School in St. Paul. Sommerville coordinates the Academy of Finance program there and is an enthusiastic proponent for getting young people interested in math-related careers. Since connecting with Como High School and Sommerville, the bank has employed four additional program participants in teller positions—Mailue Vang, Luis Paniagua, Larissa Evans, and Emily Yang.
Evans is grateful for her participation in the program. It got her ready for the workforce and gave her an opportunity to develop her career potential in real-time. There were added benefits she didn’t expect, like learning about money management and building lasting relationships with people who invested in her professionally and personally. Evans was a teller for almost three years while she attended school to become a nursing assistant.
“Working hands-on has excelled my skills and taught me lifelong financial habits,” Evans said. “I was able to build my professional network and have an incredible time while doing it.”
BankCherokee’s support of the Academy of Finance goes beyond providing employment opportunities. Before the pandemic, Tuomie and other bank team members volunteered at events for students and visited classrooms. They conducted mock interviews to prepare them for the job market and presented information on the kinds of jobs available in banking. When in-person classes and events were canceled, Tuomie wondered if there was something else BankCherokee could be doing to support the program.
Sommerville quickly found a need. While the school district provided students with tablets to do their regular schoolwork, the learning software used by students for their college level coursework required a computer, and some program participants didn’t have access to a laptop. With that, Tuomie arranged to donate a brand-new computer. She worked with Tasha Arignamath, BankCherokee’s Help Desk Specialist for Operations and IT, who identified what hardware would best meet participants’ needs, loaded it with software, and joined Tuomie in presenting the gift to Academy of Finance. Arignamath also volunteers as a helpline of sorts, working with the student utilizing the laptop.
Tuomie says the mission of the Academy of Finance aligns perfectly with the values of BankCherokee. The family-owned bank is committed to investing in community, and more specifically, people. Just as it does for students in the Academy, it provides opportunities internally, by encouraging employees to explore where they can go within the organization. Nancy herself began her career at BankCherokee as a credit administration officer and was continually given a chance to learn and grow. Today, in her role as Director of Human Resources, she does the same thing for her colleagues.
“I love helping people see their potential and find their niche,” Tuomie said. “It’s about discovering each person’s natural abilities and pairing those abilities with a job that will allow them to shine.”