United States of Work

“I can do better”

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Sep 4, 2020
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Kate Bellino had a plan for 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and protests over racial justice changed her priorities. (Photo by Matt Staver)
United States of Work

“I can do better”

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Sep 4, 2020
Heard on:
Kate Bellino had a plan for 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and protests over racial justice changed her priorities. (Photo by Matt Staver)
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday released its monthly report on the state of the U.S. labor market. The government has its ways of looking at what’s going on in the economy, and we have ours. One of them is a series called United States of Work, in which we found 10 people who form a representative sample of the labor force and asked how the economy was working for them. As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the labor market, we’re continuing to follow these 10 people. 

Back in February, Kate Bellino was working as a new account representative at FirstBank Colorado near Denver. She planned on finishing her bachelor’s degree and applying for the company’s management training program. That is, until the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial equality triggered a shift in her priorities. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal.

Kai Ryssdal: So what is going on at FirstBank Colorado since last we spoke? What’s the latest?

Kate Bellino: FirstBank is still plugging away. I am solely focused on the Paycheck Protection Program still. Last time we spoke, I had been moved over temporarily to the contact center. I’ve actually been promoted to a manager, so now I am managing the contact center. So lots of changes since we’ve last talked.

Ryssdal: You are also finishing up school soon, right? 

Bellino: I am finishing up school this weekend. My last class ends on Sunday. I’m so excited!

Kate Bellino's name plate at FirstBank Colorado. She's been working from home since April.  (Photo by Matt Staver)
Bellino’s nameplate at FirstBank Colorado, where she was promoted to contact center manager. (Photo by Matt Staver)

Ryssdal: Good for you. Good for you. Now here’s the question that all college graduates get asked. What are you gonna do with yourself now?

Bellino: Well, last time we talked, I was finishing up my business management degree with the plan of applying for FirstBank’s management trainee program, and while before the pandemic, that was definitely the goal, I have some news. I’m actually relocating to Washington, D.C., at the end of the month, and I am pursuing some opportunities in public service.

Ryssdal: So, well number one, wow. Number two, what do you do? Do you have a job lined up yet? Are you just up and moving? What are you doing, and really, why?

Bellino: Yeah. So, wow, 2020 has been a year! I’ve kind of shifted in who I am and who I want to be and how I want to use my voice in whatever capacity I’m in, whether that’s the private sector, public sector, helping people with finances or helping human rights initiatives. I just feel very called to work in a public-service capacity. So right now, I don’t have a job lined up. My partner and I are kind of up and moving. Once I get to D.C., I am hoping to start networking, sending out resumes and just kind of seeing which opportunities present themselves once I’m physically there.

Ryssdal: I think we have to dig into this a little bit, right, because people will not be able to hear this on the radio, but you are Chinese American, you were adopted as a toddler from China into a white family. And I imagine the events of this summer, in the spring, have sort of landed on you a little bit.

Kate Bellino outside the branch of FirstBank Colorado on Thursday, December 19, 2019.
Bellino outside her FirstBank Colorado office in 2019. She plans to relocate to the nation’s capital and get involved in public service. (Photo by Matt Staver)

Bellino: Yes. So personally, I’ve been kind of going through a self-reflecting kind of soul-searching journey. Growing up as an adopted Chinese American in a predominantly white community, I was afforded the, I guess, privilege of not having to really pay attention to what was happening with my community, the Chinese American community in the United States. And I definitely lived a very privileged life in that sense, where I just kind of turned a blind eye to it. But with the events of this summer, I recognize that that’s not OK, and that I am better and that I can do better, and that is kind of where this journey has taken me. I would really love to get involved in social justice, human rights, civil rights initiatives out in D.C. It’s definitely been a very interesting turn of events and turn of direction in my life, but I feel 100% ready for this, and I definitely think that it’s where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to be doing.

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