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Friends and Neighbors: Where banking and boxing come together

Tashawn Ward of New London has been selected by the American Bankers Association as one of eight bankers out of over 300 applications from across the country profiled in an emerging bank leaders video.

The video focuses on diverse opportunities in banking and the various ways people got a start in their banking career.

For Ward, the journey began at Whaling City Boxing Gym in New London. There, he met Chris Soto, the founding director of Higher Edge, a non-profit organization that guides low-income and first-generation students through enrollment, retention, and graduation from college.

Since Soto founded Higher Edge several years ago, Chelsea Groton Bank and the Chelsea Groton Foundation have supported the organization through grant donations and sponsorships, as well as employee volunteerism.

During workouts, Soto would talk to Ward about Higher Edge and the opportunities college could afford him. Ward hadn’t considered college before, but Chris spoke passionately about Higher Edge and how “a college degree is the fastest way to positively change the trajectory of a young person’s life.”

Ward decided to apply to Higher Edge and was accepted. The organization assisted him in applying to colleges and securing financial aid.

After he enrolled at Eastern Connecticut State University, a Higher Edge adviser regularly checked in to see how classes were going.

Following his college graduation, one of Chelsea Groton’s team members who was involved with Higher Edge, Harry Colonis, encouraged Ward to get his foot in the door with an internship as a bank teller. He followed the advice and performed extremely well in his job. He is now a full-time Customer Solutions Associate at the bank’s Center Groton location, and recently received his MBA.

Along the way, he also excelled at boxing, winning the Western New England Golden Gloves competition. He is an Olympic hopeful in the 114-pound weight class.

“Tashawn exemplifies what Chelsea Groton is all about. We are a place where people can talk about their goals, and make real plans for how to achieve them,” said Michael Rauh, president and CEO of Chelsea Groton, in a release. “We’re honored to be a part of his journey, and to have so many wonderful partners in the community to support Tashawn along the way.”

Ward credited Higher Edge for providing the needed stepping stone.

“Participating in the program introduced me to so many great people and opportunities that helped me get where I am today,” said Ward in a release. “I’m excited to work in a place where I can help customers achieve their goals, in the same way people supported and encouraged me as I worked toward mine.”

Friends and Neighbors is a regular feature in The Times. To submit, email times@theday.com.

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