Sandy S.


I grew up in Cleveland in the 70’s. My inner-city public education taught me to keep my head down, and get out of classrooms fast when someone broke through security to beat up our teacher. It was decided I didn’t need anything more than one basic math class to graduate high school since I was on a secretarial vocational path. College? That was for doctors and lawyers. Not for people like me.

My first year up was my parents’ encouragement and discipline to insist we be the best at whatever vocation we chose. I would be the BEST secretary in Cleveland!

Then I had another year up: Bill S., my manager at Cleveland Trust Bank. I was his secretary. He saw my potential. He told me about college enrollment. He told me about financial aid. He told me to leave work at 5:30 pm so I could go to community college in the evening to get a degree. He told me not to be intimated by people who had more stuff than I had.

I was motivated and ready!

But I couldn’t pass the college entrance exams because of my poor education. My dream was almost shattered. I had to find another way. So I decided: I’ll work harder, I’ll teach myself algebra, I’ll study more, I’ll excel at my job.

Fast forward to Cleveland in the 90’s:

Among 35,000 employees, I am the first and highest-ranking female Vice Chairman at KeyBank (formerly Cleveland Trust). I am a college graduate with an MBA. I am financially stable, helping my family, and supporting urban education. I have travelled the world.

I am an executive, Opportunity Youth, working to Close the Opportunity Divide.

See More #MyYearUp Stories

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