Kourtney Berry knows the “why” that drives her work as youth outreach manager at Suncoast Credit Union in Tampa, Fla.
“The main thing I seek to do every day in my role is to inspire and motivate and foster meaningful relationships,” she says.
Berry attended Florida A&M University, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) that prepared her for the challenges of being a young, Black professional. After out-of-state internships, she returned to Tampa for corporate public relations jobs that allowed her to work with senior executives at varied companies.
“It was rewarding because not only was I exposed to exclusive projects, I began to receive essential constructive criticism,” she says. “You take that constructive criticism and turn it into your motivation to continue to be better.”
Early in her career, Berry sometimes struggled to believe she was ready for the professional opportunities that came her way.
Today, she shares this advice with others in the same position: “Remember they picked you for a reason. Have the courage and confidence to act like it.”
A “roundabout” journey led Berry to Suncoast, where she leads a team of three people who deliver financial education and serve as liaisons to schools and nonprofit organizations.
While the team serves community residents of all ages, their focus is on youth, which includes working with 28 schools that run their own mini-credit unions (in-school branches are suspended during the pandemic).
Berry empowers her team to create education programs that improve financial literacy and help Suncoast’s youngest members start saving. Outreach to minority communities lets her give back to the organizations that fostered her success.
Berry notes Suncoast is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion among employees and members, which reinforces her determination to reach all audiences with meaningful, relevant, financial education.
“Especially when we go to underserved communities, we don’t give fairy tale examples,” she says. “We make sure they know having money isn’t just about being rich, but about living your richest life.”
Berry recharges her batteries through her faith and strong connections to extended family in the Tampa area and beyond. Within the credit union movement, she gets support from the African American Credit Union Coalition and the National Youth Involvement Board.
She notes she’s never lacked a resource because someone in the credit union network always steps up to share it.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ swearing-in “exuded Black history,” Berry says. Like Harris, Berry is a graduate of an HBCU and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Berry honored Harris by wearing pearls, jeans, and “Chucks” (Converse All-Star sneakers) to work on Inauguration Day.
She also cites voting activist Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as role models who continue to prove how much Black women can achieve.
“You can’t help but see the change that’s being made,” Berry said. “You can’t help but see the shift and the impact we’re having on the highest role of leadership in this country.”