It’s 5:30pm, and Mohamed Maalim has just finished his first day at a new job. He’s a Branch Trainee at M&T Bank in Buffalo, having been accepted into the company’s Community Branch Management Program for future leaders with recognized potential.

“Coming in today, I was very anxious – I was like, ‘Oh, how am I going to do?’,” he says. “But my manager and the team were very kind. They made me feel at home. And we got right to work.”

Maalim is no stranger to hard work: for years, he juggled an entry-level role at M&T Bank with a full courseload as an undergraduate at Medaille College; and prior to that he was a member of the Class of 2017 at South Park High School in Buffalo. And he remembers the high school support he received from Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection as if it were yesterday.

“Mister Sterling was so supportive of me,” Maalim says of Sterling South, the HWSC Youth Advisor who partnered with Maalim and his family during his days at South Park. “He was always asking about my grades and checking up to see if I was doing well in classes. He got me into the Hillside professional development program where students learned how to do an interview, get a resume done and dress professionally. He even helped me get my first job, at Tops, in one of the partnerships that Hillside had.”

His HWSC relationship also facilitated an introduction to M&T Bank, which led to years of employment and now, his current trainee role.

Now that he’s graduated from Medaille and embracing a promising professional career, Maalim is giving back by volunteering in the refugee community that he’s called home since his family emigrated from Somalia in 2008. The M&T Bank branch where he’s training is in that same neighborhood, and he was pleased to see familiar faces among the bank customers on his first day.

“These people in the refugee immigrant community, they have all sorts of challenges but don’t always know how to get help,” he says. “I want to give them the same opportunities I had.”

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