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I have two sons in college—that means I’m paying for two college tuitions! While I know a college education is a great investment in their future, I have to admit that every semester when I pay their tuition bill, I ask myself “Will this be worth it in the end?” Translation: Will they really be able to find a good-paying job and support themselves, or will they be living in my basement forever?

So I’m always curious to find out how students learn about career opportunities. In my opinion, the earlier you start investigating, the better—even during high school. And then I heard about the Big Brothers Big Sisters School-to-Work program we have right here at Navy Federal Credit Union. The program matches high school juniors with credit union employees for a two-year commitment of on-site job shadowing and mentoring. It’s a great opportunity—both for the students and for our employees.

I wanted to know more, so I reached out to Ty’Brea Maxfield, one of the students who just completed the program, and Megan Jones, our Contact Center Manager and Ty’Brea’s Navy Federal mentor. Both had a lot of great things to say.

Ty’Brea said her School-to-Work experience was transformative. "Before the program, I was pretty quiet. Now I’m more open and talkative. I have more confidence," she said.

Ty’Brea did all sorts of things at Navy Federal. She met with our executive team and learned how important a personal connection is for our members. She participated in workshops focused on financial awareness, such as budgeting and building credit. She even dove into a lab to learn how to build a resume.

She admits at first she was skeptical. In fact, when she saw a poster in her school’s library about School-to-Work, she didn’t pay much attention. But later, when her teacher suggested she apply for the program, she decided to go for it and she’s glad she did.

Megan said being a mentor to Ty’Brea was equally rewarding for her. She‘d always wanted to find an opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community, but as the mother of two children with a full-time job, she could never find the time. "It was very intriguing and amazing to have a program like this that I could do from work."

She volunteered to be a mentor and underwent a background check and interview process in order to be selected. "I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to get selected!" she jokes now.

When I asked Megan if she would be a mentor again, she didn’t hesitate. "Yes! I absolutely would. It’s a big time commitment—I would never deny that. But the fulfillment I got out of it personally made it well worth it."

Ty’Brea agrees. "I felt like I gained a second mom."

What advice does Ty’Brea have for students as they look into career opportunities? "Test the waters. Jump in and see what gets your wheels turning. When you run across a new opportunity—just try it. Don’t be afraid."

That’s exactly what she’s doing as she studies biochemistry at Pensacola State College, something she says she wouldn’t have had the courage to do without a kind push from her mentor and friend, Megan.

Camille Smith is a writer on the Navy Federal Marketing Team, where she writes about financial topics that keep our members informed. She spends her free time with her husband, two sons and two needy dachshunds.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.