Back in 2016, when FineMark Lending Officer, Jessica Dunleavy, volunteered for a new program at the bank through Big Brothers Big Sisters, she wasn’t sure what to expect. In fact, FineMark was the first business in Southwest Florida to take part in Beyond School Walls, a program designed to help at-risk high school students reach their fullest potential through workplace mentorship. “The idea of mentoring someone was a chance for me to give back,” said Jessica. “I had a couple of people in my life who took me under their wing and helped me, so I thought it would be great if I could pay it forward and do the same for someone else.”
Jessica was paired with Ashley Logan, a high school freshman who had moved to the United States from Jamaica, just a few months prior. “It was hard at first to adapt,” Ashley admitted. “Culturally it’s very different so there was a lot to learn. Jessica would just listen to me talk about everything. Her warmth and kindness helped me navigate this new world.”
For all four years of high school, Ashley would come to FineMark, listen to speakers, spend one-on-one time with Jessica and learn about possible opportunities when she graduated. One speaker in particular, presented a huge opportunity for Ashley. Former Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart visited the students and talked about his career and the path that led him to becoming tax collector. He also offered students the chance to apply for a summer internship in his office. Ashley applied and got the internship and worked there every summer until she was eventually hired as an actual employee in the IT Department.
“Because of FineMark’s involvement in the community, there are a lot of opportunities for these students and it’s a fantastic opportunity for someone who wants to take it,” said Jessica. “That’s what I admire about Ashley. She really has an innate internal drive.” Jessica added, “She wants to go to the next level. She doesn’t need any coaching with that, and it’s just been amazing to see her grow and develop.”
With Jessica’s mentorship through FineMark and Beyond School Walls, that’s exactly what Ashley has done. Fast forward six years, she is now entering her senior year of college at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. She is majoring in business management and was selected for a summer internship with General Electric. Although she has ‘aged out’ of the Beyond School Walls program, Jessica and Ashley still talk, text and spend time valuable time together, something that has been meaningful to Ashley. “College is completely different from high school and the things you face are so different,” said Ashley. “Jessica has acted as almost a guardrail for me here. She keeps me from going too far anywhere I shouldn’t,” Ashley said with a smile. “So, I’m grateful.”
As for what the future holds, Ashley will graduate in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science. She is debating whether to continue her education or join the workforce, where she will have considerable opportunities.
Whatever path Ashley takes, she knows she will always have a mentor and a friend in Jessica. And both Jessica and Ashley are grateful for FineMark’s commitment to community and the Beyond School Walls program for bringing them together.