Finalists will move on to compete in the 2018 CUaware Protégé Competition on February 2nd during the Carolinas CU Connect Conference in Charlotte, NC. The winner and two runners-up will receive developmental scholarships sponsored by the Carolinas Credit Union League.
At the Columbia Chapter of Credit Unions' Protégé Competition, Mike Ramos, floating service center manager for Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union, was named the Chapter Protégé finalist.
Ramos joined Palmetto Citizens FCU earlier in 2017, and aspires to become a leader in the credit union community. He is a graduate of Wor–Wic Community College with an associates degree in business management.
Although new to working in the credit union industry, as Ramos explains, he found his way to Palmetto Citizens after filtering his next career move through three important criteria: “The first of these is a community focus. It is very important for me to know my work is for a good cause. The second is a customer focus. I need to feel confident that the products and services I deliver enrich the lives of those whom I serve. The third focus is an employee focus. It is very important that I know the organization I work for cares about the advancement of my colleagues and myself. After many interviews and countless hours researching companies, the credit union model fit my needs completely.”
Katie Warren, who works as operations support manager at Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union, has been named the CUaware Protégé for the Lowcountry Chapter. Warren joined the Heritage Trust FCU team in 2010, and has since won the credit union’s All-Star Award in 2016 and 2017. A graduate of Clemson University, Warren earned her bachelors in business management with a minor in psychology, and she aspires to one day open her own business in the Charleston area.
A few years ago, Warren was interested in participating in the Protégé Competition but held back out of fear of public speaking, but this year was a different story.
“Public speaking is something that I have struggled with all of my life,” Warren recalls. “My fear of failure and judgment from others restricted me from realizing my full capabilities. My reason for competing in the Protege Competition is to share my passion for how credit unions can succeed in the future while inspiring others who may also be struggling to overcome their fears.”
Kiah Tyndall, who works as a financial service representative at Winston-Salem Federal Credit Union, has been named the CUaware Protégé for the Northwest Chapter. Tyndall joined Winston-Salem FCU in 2014, and aspires to become a compliance officer or work in compliance at the credit union. A graduate of Forsyth Technical Community College, she earned her A.A.S. degree in Paralegal, and by Spring 2019 will earn her bachelors in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix.
Reflecting on what led her to work in the credit union industry, Tyndall noted the positive impact the credit union has had on her and the members they serve.
“Since joining the credit union industry three years ago, I can truly say I am blessed to be a part of a hard-working,
committed team who will give and do anything to help meet the needs of our members,” Tyndall recalls. “The credit union movement gives such an outstanding vibe concerning the communities in which we live in.”
Sara Foster, who works as the marketing specialist at Charlotte Metro Credit Union (CMCU), has been named the CUaware Protégé for the Piedmont Chapter. Foster joined CMCU in 2015, and aspires to continue her marketing career growth at the credit union. A graduate of High Point University, she earned her B.A. in Strategic Communication with minors in Marketing, Nonprofit Leadership and Religion.
Foster inherited her interest and understanding of the credit union industry from her mom, who served as the director of marketing for State Employees Credit Union of Maryland.
“My first savings account, opened the day I was born, was at SECU and my primary financial institution has always been a credit union,” recalled Foster. “I was raised understanding the value and benefits of belonging to a credit union thanks to the focus it places on its members, not its profit margins. I am proud to say I work for an organization that not only helps impact and grow the local communities we serve, but also enables me to play a direct role in our outreach.”
In addition to serving as an author for CMCU’s Money Talks blog, Foster also serves as leader for the credit union’s Millennial Committee. In her spare time, she enjoys DIY projects, house renovation, calligraphy and hiking around North Carolina. She’s also an avid runner and has completed two half marathons.
Sara Portis, who works as an outbound call team operations manager at Coastal Credit Union, has been named the CUaware Protégé for the Tarheel Chapter. Portis joined Coastal in 2010, and has short-term aspirations to continue building her career in the industry with a focus on service to sales in a virtual world. Her long-term goal is to move into executive management and become a respected leader in the community. A graduate of William Peace University, Portis earned her B.S.B.A. in Leadership & Management with a minor in Marketing.
When she's not spending time with friends and family, she enjoys volunteering her time to help her community and serves on the board for Dress for Success, a non-profit that that provides professional attire for low-income women to help support their job-search and interview process.
Her ultimate goal in competing is to "continue building a better community while spreading the word of our movement."
Thomas Lentz, who works as a contact center manager at Greenville Federal Credit Union, has been named the Chapter Protégé for the Upstate Chapter of Credit Unions. Lentz joined Greenville FCU in 2007 as a part-time teller and in his current role seeks to grow the credit union’s contact center by improving online lending and other services. A graduate of Winthrop University, Lentz earned his bachelors in business administration with a concentration in finance, and aspires to hold a senior management position at the credit union.
On why he wanted to compete in the Protégé Competition, Lentz explained, “I want to compete to share and remind everyone how and why credit unions do the right thing. If we can convey to our members [this] message, they will know that any decision we make is to serve their financial needs. Not only will they feel safe and secure about their present finances, they will know that we will take care of them in the future.”