From a solo Spanish translator to a community leader
For more information about FirstBank, visit efirstbank.com. Or to reach out to Yanitza directly for your banking or fitness needs, call 970-468-7250.
When Yanitza Rivera moved to Summit County from Puerto Rico in 2001, there were not a lot of bilingual community members, yet the region’s Spanish-speaking population was growing.
She had just earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico and was taking a chance by moving to Summit County to be with her boyfriend, now husband, whom she had met while he was on a surf vacation in Puerto Rico. She found that when she arrived here, many employers wanted to hire her on the spot simply because she was a Spanish speaker.
“Others doubted that I would last,” she said. “They questioned if I would tolerate the weather, altitude, culture shock or if I would end up breaking up with my boyfriend.”
Nearly 20 years later, she remains employed at FirstBank, which hired her just two weeks after she arrived in Summit County. She started out as a teller and recalls only one other employee at the time who could speak both Spanish and English.
“And for at least 10 years, I was the only one, but now we have many bilingual employees and always try to have a Spanish speaker at every branch,” she said.
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Taking a chance
Rivera recalls selling chocolates in the streets of her hometown in Puerto Rico to be able to afford the move to Summit County. She had paid for university with the help of a scholarship and was a typical struggling college student.
She arrived in Colorado with a backpack and $32 in her pocket. She started applying for jobs when FirstBank gave her an opportunity that shaped her career over the last 20 years. She found herself translating a lot for the Customer Service and New Accounts departments.
“I learned a lot about the bank just from translating, which didn’t go unnoticed,” she said. “I was a teller for three months and was quickly promoted to Customer Service/Bookkeeping, which lasted about four years until I moved to the New Accounts department.”
Within one month, Rivera was the department’s supervisor. She then became a Designated Supervisor and then the New Accounts Supervisor for all three Summit County branches, before moving to Branch Manager and finally Senior Specialist Treasury Management Development, a role she’s been in for the last three years.
As Rivera recalls all of the opportunities FirstBank has given her over the years, she’s not surprised because she sees the bank practice this not just with its employees, but also its customers. The bank is proud to support hardworking community members however it can in order to open up doors to success.
“I think that our leaders have the same mentality that I have for myself – our tagline is ‘banking for good.’ The idea behind that is doing what is best for people — what is best for employees, and what is best for the community,” Rivera said. “We’re not geared toward selling-selling-selling. FirstBank is more about customer service and alleviating pain so your life can be easier when it comes to managing money.”
Supporting the community
Rivera is proud to serve in a FirstBank role that helps customers with the financial products and services that help them run their businesses. She loves that many of her customers have her on speed dial.
“When they have a need or a problem, they call me and I love solving problems,” she said. “It makes me feel like a hero.”
This work was especially gratifying during the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan process in 2020.
Rivera uses her skills and experience growing up in a U.S. Territory to help immigrants who have many other cultural barriers in addition to language.
“Just think about people coming from another country, a different system and not being able to speak the language. Money is important, but if you don’t know how to read a bank statement or if you can’t ask someone what this charge is for, it’s super important to have someone to help them,” she said. “It definitely takes longer to open accounts for Hispanic people because of those questions and insecurities about what’s going to happen to their money.”
Rivera also transfers these skills and her natural ability to help immigrant families into philanthropic work. She offered financial literacy classes via the Family Intercultural Resources Center (FIRC) for a while, and through other events that focus on integrating the Hispanic community into the community.
“I am a believer that if you want to succeed you must set goals, have a vision and put hard work into it,” Rivera said.
Promoting physical activity for Latinos
As a certified fitness trainer and Insanity— a fitness program by the company Beachbody, for which Rivera is a coach — instructor, Rivera balances her desk job with intense physical fitness. She describes the Insanity program as a workout where “you literally jump until you feel like you’re going to die.”
In a good way, of course.
When she moved to Summit County in 2001, she struggled with hiking and the altitude. That motivated her to embrace fitness, and fell in love with it and with mountain biking.
This year, she volunteered for The Cycle Effect, a mountain biking program for Summit County Latina girls, and FIRC. She’s grateful to work for a company that encourages and promotes this community service.
She’s passionate about promoting fitness and sports for the Latino community because she feels they don’t have the same opportunities, perhaps because of language or cultural barriers.
“I am a huge proponent of longevity through health and fitness and I am committed to educate the Hispanic community on how to eat better and how to adopt a healthier lifestyle since our food is very tasty but also very greasy,” she said. “You will often find me on Facebook Live, in Spanish, talking about motivation because I believe a healthy lifestyle or anything you want to accomplish starts with the mindset of believing in yourself and not being afraid of failing. Due to the pandemic, I have continued to offer my classes through Zoom and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”
FirstBank is committed to supporting the people and organizations that make our communities thrive. This is the fourth and final FirstBank-sponsored article spotlighting extraordinary work happening here in Summit County.
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