BronxWorks employees often come with vibrant stories that shape their approach to their work. Many have lived through experiences that guide their interactions with clients and inspire their dedication to our mission. Karla Velasquez is one of many examples of staff who know first-hand the impact of BronxWorks programs. Karla came to the U.S. from Honduras as a 12-year-old. She grew up in the Bronx and received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Alfred University. For 15 years she worked as an Operations Manager for a retail company. When a market downturn resulted in the closure of that company, Karla continued to look for new opportunities. Eventually, Karla was connected with the Jobs Plus program and applied for a Financial Counselor position at BronxWorks. Like so many of the clients that she works with now, Karla received assistance preparing her résumé. She interviewed for the position and was hired in 2011.
I’m proud whenever a member graduates from our programs,” Karla says. “I’ve seen members come to us without a high school diploma, with nothing, and they’re graduating with a Bachelor’s degree and a job.
Karla has worked her way up through the Workforce Development department for ten years. She spent two years as the Jobs Plus Financial Counselor before becoming a Senior Case Manager for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program, where she helped to pilot financial counseling to clients of the program. After another year back at Jobs Plus as a Senior Financial Counselor, BronxWorks received a contract to provide tax preparation services at the Morris Innovative Senior Center, followed by grants for the Financial Empowerment Center and expanding tax prep services under the BronxWorks Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Bronx Promote Earned Income Tax Credit to support At-Risk Children (BronxPEACH) programs. Karla worked to support all of these expansions, and she is now the Director of the Financial Empowerment Center, where she supervises 12 staff across all of the BronxWorks tax prep services as well as the FSS Program.
I’m from the community. My kids go to school in the community. If my community does good, I do good. I love when people succeed.
During the pandemic, Karla’s programs have been working overtime trying to help clients secure crucial assistance like unemployment benefits or job training and resources. The FSS Program helps Section 8 voucher holders with employment and training as well as various financial services to assist households toward achieving financial independence. The Financial Empowerment Center helps all individuals who live or work in New York City with free one-on-one financial counseling services. The VITA and BronxPEACH programs are both free tax prep services for all individuals and households that meet the income requirements.