Getting a good education can help us realize our dreams, lead us to achievement, and encourage us to become better citizens. It has been said that education is life itself. Today, BayCoast Bank is changing lives, thanks to an innovative educational program.
In partnership with Bristol Community College (BCC) and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMass), BayCoast has developed an inspiring program that gives local high school students from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to receive a free college education along with valuable career experience.
This inspiring initiative is called the BayCoast Scholars Program.
Students attending B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River and New Bedford High School are eligible to apply for the program. Once selected, they can complete their Associate’s degree in business at BCC free of charge, including tuition, fees, books, technology, and other expenses. Upon graduation from BCC, the Scholars are guaranteed transfer into UMass Dartmouth’s Business Management program, where they can complete their Bachelor’s degree without the stress of accumulating student loan debt. As part of the program, the Scholars also receive part-time employment at BayCoast Bank, giving them a valuable head start on their careers.
“This program has meant everything to me,” said Sharonne Morales, a Durfee High School graduate and member of the first cohort of BayCoast Scholars. “BayCoast has given me hope that people who look like me are able to have opportunity. This program levels the playing field. Diversity is important and I feel a sense of belonging. It has truly been a blessing.”
Katheryn Nogueira says being accepted into the program was a big relief. “It feels really great. Now I can focus on my studies and not worry about how I’m going to pay for college. That burden has been lifted.”
Luisa Furtado Ribeiro, a graduate of New Bedford High School, was born in Lisbon, Portugal and emigrated to Southern New England with her family when she was 11 years old. “When I found out that I had been accepted into the program, it was a moment of gratitude. For all of us in the program, everything we are learning and the connections we are making – that is shaping our futures.”
Furtado Ribeiro says having the opportunity to also gain valuable work experience at BayCoast Bank has been a huge advantage. “Getting into the corporate world at just 18 years old has absolutely changed my life. The growth I have experienced is beyond words. To me, the opportunity is a blessing because coming from where I come from, I never thought I would go to college. I never thought something so amazing could happen to me.”
Jovaughn Lopes says his guidance counselor at Durfee High School is to thank for telling him about the BayCoast Scholars program. “She thought this would fit me perfectly and she was right. This is real life. To have the opportunity to get an education – to learn in the classroom and then learn on the job, it gives you a leg up. You always hear that if you work hard, good things will happen, and sometimes you don’t always believe it. It seemed like a far-fetched dream, but actually being accepted into the program, it was so amazing.”
“Getting an education is so important in today’s world,” said Nicholas M. Christ, President and CEO of BayCoast Bank. “Here at BayCoast, we support and invest in education because we believe education is the primary economic driver that can transform lives and communities for the better. The Scholars program is such a wonderful example of improving the overall quality of life in some small way.”
“We can see how much our Scholars really appreciate having this opportunity,” adds Scott Lopes, VP of Human Resources for BayCoast Bank. “We are so proud of our BayCoast Scholars. We know they have bright futures ahead.”
“The responsibility of being a pioneer in this program is not lost on me,” adds Furtado Ribeiro. “We take that responsibility seriously. We want to do well; we want everyone to see we can succeed.”
The Scholars say they are fortunate to have each other to lean on for support, as they move ahead in the program.
“Katheryn and I, we push each other to succeed,” continues Morales. “We both went to Durfee, but never met in high school. We connected in this program and it was so great not to feel alone. We also know we have a whole community of supporters around us with our colleagues at the bank.”
“I call my co-workers at the Airport Road Branch my ‘aunties’”, said Lopes. “They are amazing mentors and they really take care of me. They help me not just with work, but with life.”
“The BayCoast Scholars are impressive individuals. They are excelling and we can see the drive in them,” said James Wallace, EVP, Chief Operating Officer for BayCoast Bank. “BayCoast cares about our communities and we care about seeing our Scholars succeed, not just in their education but in life.”
“Jim Wallace has been so supportive of us,” adds Morales. “He treats us like we are valuable contributors. It’s nice to be recognized for our hard work.”
What do the BayCoast Scholars hope to do in the future?
“I want to help others like me,” said Lopes. “If I am ever in a position to give a student what I am being given now, I will do it. Getting a college education has been an incredible gift to receive and I hope someday, I can return the favor for someone who needs that support.”