When DeAmonte Block ’22 began his very first job after graduation this summer, he walked in feeling particularly prepared. The newest staff auditor at U.S. Bank in downtown Minneapolis, Block was hardly a new face to many of his coworkers.
A recent University of St. Thomas graduate and Dougherty Family College (DFC) alumnus, Block spent much of his college career at U.S. Bank. He’s been interning at the local financial powerhouse since his very first days on campus.
“Companies are looking for more than just a formal degree, they want to know if you have the hands- on experience to go out and do the things they need you to do,” Block said.
After years completing projects across various U.S. Bank departments, Block has a treasure trove of experience. And it didn’t happen by accident.
U.S. Bank was one of the first companies to sign on as a corporate DFC sponsor prior to its launch in 2017. Part of the Minneapolis company’s commitment included dozens of paid internships for scholars, of which Block was one of the first. Now five years later, U.S. Bank is announcing its continued partnership with Dougherty Family College, signing on for another five years of support and life-changing internships.
“I was able to start right out the gate as soon as the year started,” Block said. “It definitely showed me not just corporate etiquette, but how to understand the environment of where I am and how to adapt.”
With graduation from DFC and St. Thomas now in the rearview mirror, Block is the first former DFC intern to be hired full time at U.S. Bank. He’s thankful for the path and people who led him to this moment.
“You never know when an opportunity could come around,” Block said. “I think it's important that you know people who can help you get to where you want to be, but also help others as well.”
As U.S. Bank prepares for another five years of working with DFC scholars, the company’s Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Executive Vice President Greg Cunningham says it wasn’t a hard decision to sign up for more.
“The program works,” Cunningham said. “When you can give students equal access to opportunity, and also surround them with the necessary tools and support programs, it works.”
With DFC focused on closing the opportunity gap for underserved students, its professional internship program plays a key role in that mission. The program also doubles as a way for employers to tap into a diverse workforce pipeline.
“There's no shortage of talent,” Cunningham said. “What we have is a shortage of pathways to real opportunity for everyone and that's what this work is all about.”
Cunningham has seen firsthand that investing in the scholars of DFC leads to a more inclusive and successful community for all.
“These kids are our future leaders and so an investment in Dougherty Family College is an investment in our region,” Cunningham said. “It's an investment in our communities and it's an investment in all of our futures.”
Buffy Smith, dean of the Dougherty Family College, is proud to have U.S. Bank standing alongside the college as a corporate partner.
“We are working together to provide more educational and career opportunities in our community,” Smith said. “We want to nurture and develop more amazing young leaders like DeAmonte Block."
U.S. Bank Chief Executive Officer and St. Thomas Trustee Andy Cecere ’82 was critical to the relationship starting and expanding. It’s a relationship that Cunningham is proud to continue to foster as a member of the DFC advisory board.
“When I was first invited to speak to a group of students, years ago, I actually saw myself in those kids,” Cunningham said. “Oftentimes what you just need is somebody to believe in you, even when you don't necessarily believe in yourself and that's what I think this program does.”
Cunningham certainly made an impact on his now colleague, DeAmonte Block.
“Seeing another African American male in a prominent position like he’s in, really opened my eyes to understand that I could be in that spot, too,” Block said.
Block hopes to use his own journey and connections to benefit future DFC scholars.
“To have that connection with St. Thomas and U.S. Bank is honestly a big opportunity,” Block said. “It really encourages me to help other students who are coming in as freshmen or even those who are just about to graduate, who are looking for a job. To be that resource and have that opportunity makes me very grateful.”