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Investing in Potential (Part One)

United Way Quad Cities board member banks on new scholarship program to open doors

By Alison McGaughey

Like many college students, Ty Lewis is conducting a summer internship, hoping it will help him get a job after graduation. 

As a credit analysis intern for Quad City Bank & Trust, the soon-to-be senior finance major at St. Ambrose University has been working with businesses on PPP loan forgiveness, job shadowing in each department and learning different aspects of the banking industry. But what stands out about Lewis’ summer gig is that he reports directly to — and has received a life-altering offer from — the CEO. 

“Finding an internship like this, that’s giving me such a foot in the door, would’ve been hard on my own,” says Lewis. “I don’t even know if I’d have looked for one like it. But this opportunity has changed my life, and it’s already impacting the lives of others. When younger kids see me, they see that ‘yes, there can be a Black man working in banking and making a difference.’”

Thanks to his work ethic, strong academic background, and the development of a unique new program by QCBT CEO John Anderson, Lewis now has the opportunity to enter into a professional field — and to advance to an income level— in which African Americans are traditionally underrepresented. The bank is providing tuition and costs for Lewis to attend St. Ambrose, (the CEO’s alma mater), as well as the paid internship at the bank, and has ensured that Lewis receives ongoing community and campus support as part of the program.

Anderson and others who helped establish the program see the ultimate goal as not only a full-time job offer for Lewis post-graduation, but also, a positive ripple effect in the community —  one they hope to see expand in the wake of Lewis’s success as other local executives follow Anderson’s lead.

A United Way Quad Cities board member, Anderson was particularly inspired to create the program after attending the 2019 launch of United Way Quad Cities’ African American Leadership Society.

“I was blown away by the statistics I heard about the areas of need within the African American community here in the Quad Cities,” says Anderson. “I went back to my office thinking ‘there has to be more that we can do.’” 

Kayla Babers, AALS manager, noted that one of the three goals AALS set at that launch was for 100 investors to contribute to changing the lives of African American Quad Citizens.

“John has helped set that goal in motion,” Babers said. “He is directly taking action to change lives.”

To bring the idea for the scholarship program to fruition, Anderson reached out to Rev. Dwight Ford, a founding member and Tri-Chair of AALS. As the two discussed the issue, Rev. Ford recalls, “we talked about our own upbringing, our view of life, and how we got to where we are today. I said, ‘John, it’s not that African Americans don’t have a desire to work in finance; it’s that there’s no pipeline.’ And John said, ‘I can do something about that.’” 

In addition to being selected for the program, Lewis had to be accepted to St. Ambrose, and must maintain a high grade-point average to fulfill his role in the partnership. 

Anderson is excited by how he sees Lewis grow as a student and intern. 

“This opportunity for Ty is also a great opportunity for us as a bank,” Anderson says. “But it’s also great for the community. And it’s just the right thing to do.”

“By developing a program like this, John is truly answering the call to help build the pipeline of talent and close the opportunity gap for young Black Quad Citizens,” says United Way Quad Cities President and CEO Rene Gellerman. “We are so excited at the prospect of other local executives and leaders seeing the way this puts opportunity in the hands of people who need it most and taking action to provide opportunities of this kind.”

To get involved AALS – at any level, from interested CEO to mentor or volunteer, visit the AALS website. You can also give to AALS via our convenient Mobile Cause app. 

In Part Two of our series, learn about how and why equitable programs and partnerships of this kind are both necessary and beneficial in the Quad Cities. Read Part Two here.

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