PULLMAN, Wash. — Chandra Barney worked hard to earn the diploma she received at
Washington State University on May 8. But she’s quick to give the credit to those she says
made her undergraduate education in business possible: Seafirst Bank and WSU’s College of
Business & Economics.
“I am very grateful to them,” says the 21-year-old from Toppenish, an enrolled member of
the Yakama Indian Tribe and also of Mexican/American heritage. “The bank and the college
provided financial and moral support the whole time. They recognized my potential, and helped
me reach it.”
Barney is the first graduate among the 31 students who have come to the WSU business
school via the Seafirst Youth Job Program (YJP). Seafirst, part of Bank of America, launched the
program in 1992 to assist “under-served” Washington high school students. The program uses a
comprehensive approach, including a committed family of caring bank associates, well paying
jobs, a safe place to learn and college scholarships.
During high school, Seafirst provides YJP students with after-school and summer jobs. They
are mentored by a motivated, successful volunteer bank associate who shares knowledge, time
and life experiences. Upon graduation, Seafirst puts up $10,000 for the funding of their university
education. YJP students who choose to study business at WSU also receive scholarship
“Contributing money is vitally important to the health and well-being of our communities,”
says Seafirst Chairman John Rindlaub. “Corporations, as well as individuals, should give
generously. But I believe giving your time is even more important than giving dollars,” he says.
“When you give your time, you give a part of yourself.”
“The partnership between the WSU College of Business & Economics and Seafirst
demonstrates how business and academe can achieve great success when we work together,”
says A. Gale Sullenberger, dean of the CBE. “We are proud to be the Washington college
chosen to provide the best business education for these fine YJP students.”
To date, the bank has granted more than $200,000 in scholarships to YJP students at WSU,
says Debbie Hevia, Seafirst vice president and manager of Northwest Staffing and the Youth Job
Program. The CBE contributed another $125,000 in scholarships.
“These students work hard for their education,” says Hevia. “By the time their bachelor’s
degrees are complete, they have grown to be financially savvy, mature, independent young
people. They accomplish a lot, and have much of which to be proud.”
Youth Job students are also encouraged to participate alongside other bank associates in
volunteer projects, ranging from graffiti paint-outs in neighborhood parks to staffing the bank’s
statewide summer science program for elementary school children. Based on its measurable
results, Seafirst’s Youth Job Program recently received the Ron Brown Award for Corporate
Leadership, the only Presidential Award for outstanding corporate achievements in associate
and community relations.
Hevia says, “Chandra has been a wonderful member of the YJP program. We’ve seen her
grow from a shy but determined young woman into an educated professional ready to tackle her
College and Seafirst friends and plenty of family were among the cheering crowd of 7,000
gathered in WSU’s Beasley Auditorium to witness Barney’s graduation.
“I’m the second in my family to graduate from high school, and the first from college,” notes
Barney. “I will be a role model for the younger ones.”
Barney set her sights on college when she was in only the sixth grade. On a field trip, she
learned about various universities and liked what she saw.
“At first, I thought I’d become a physical therapist to help handicapped children like one of
my sisters. But when I joined the Seafirst YJP program in high school, I changed my mind,” she
says. “I saw how happy the employees were and how much they valued the type of company
that Seafirst is. I decided I wanted to build a career in that bank.”
While she played some sports, she mostly concentrated on studies at Toppenish High
School to earn good grades for college. She graduated in 1995, the fourth of 110 students. She
graduated from WSU with a 3.2 grade point average, out of a possible 4.0.
If Seafirst and its employees gave her inspiration, then her family provided the motivation.
“My mother taught me to be independent, and that helped me to brave that first, tough year
away from home. My grandmother taught me about my Native American heritage, and that
helped me develop pride in my accomplishments and the desire to accomplish more. And, my
entire family always shared their love, and that gave me the strength to finish.”
Barney has now moved to Seattle where she’ll continue her sixth year as a Seafirst employee,
having worked at branches in Toppenish and Pullman. Her new assignment will be as a section
manager in a downtown bank. In five years, she says, she’d like to have a place in the
corporation’s human resource division, specializing in benefits.
Though her undergraduate college education is complete and she is graduating debt-free
thanks to Seafirst and the CBE, she says there are some paybacks she has decided on her own to
make. “I want to repay the bank and the college for what they’ve done for me. I have a degree
and a great job. It’s time for me to contribute back to them. To the bank, I’ll give hard work and
loyalty. To the college, I’ll contribute to scholarships to help other people from low-income,
minority backgrounds. There is always someone, like me, who needs a little help, a boost.”
This fall, six new YJP students will take their first freshman classes at WSU and join the more
than 30 YJP students already there. In many upcoming semesters, other YJP students will follow
Barney to the graduation podium for business degrees, trained in everything from management
information systems, to finance, to human relations, and more. Like Barney, they will be young
people ready and willing to give back to their communities, thanks to the unique partnership
between Seafirst and WSU.