Changing Our World: Jodi Satkunam

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Corporate News

This profile series highlights colleagues across Bank of the West who serve our communities through board service and volunteerism. Jodi Satkunam, Sales Practices Oversight Manager, talks about her support for the F5 Project and why she is passionate about supporting community.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in your community? 

Head shot of smiling Jodi SatkunamA: I have a passion for underdogs. I grew up in one of the poorest counties in Minnesota and didn’t start off with much. I’ve been blessed by supportive people in my life, and I want to help others achieve their dreams. Changing one’s life, and the unhealthy behaviors that in some cases are passed down generation after generation, is one of the most difficult things we can do. It’s rewarding for me to help people transform their lives for the better.

Tell us about the organization you support and its mission to help others in our community.

I helped launch F5 Project, a nonprofit that helps felons reintegrate into society and become productive, self-sufficient members of our community. F5 was named for the “refresh” function key on the keyboard. It’s what any person with a felony background wants — a clean slate or a refresh.

When men and women are released from prison, they often only have the clothes on their back. They might not have a place to call home, job prospects, or even an identification card.

We help with those basics. F5 Project has eight homes dedicated to housing individuals. They are not charged rent the first month, but afterwards they pay rent like everyone else. We support them in getting an identification card, clothing, and a job. We maintain partnerships with employers who are felon-friendly and who believe someone’s past should not define their future.

What outcomes are you seeing for your community and for individuals?

F5 Project was founded just two years ago, and we’ve had great successes. For example, the recidivism rate – individuals returning to prison or jail – in the U.S. is 70%. Recidivism with participants in the F5 Project is just 7%. It costs about $45,000 a year to have someone incarcerated in Cass County (North Dakota). It is a tremendous benefit to our community when we can help people stay out of jail and become economically self-sufficient.

On a personal level, many individuals (men and women) come from generational addiction and crime. Seeing them break that cycle is amazing! And, there’s a trickle-down effect. As they build better lives for themselves, many are reunited with their families. If they have children, they’re able to provide financial support and be better role models. This is one of the parts I love the most — seeing people change their lives and also the trajectory of their children’s lives!

How has F5 Project achieved its success rate?

We are going into prisons and introducing our organization before individuals are released. Those who truly want to change their lives find a strong, supportive network with F5 Project. One of our requirements is that participants get plugged into healthy socialization, for example a church community or a support group such as AA or NA. We also require participants to volunteer and contribute back to society in a positive way. Community is the lynchpin for people’s successes.

What is your role with the nonprofit?

I am the treasurer of the Board of Directors for F5 Project, and I’m also a volunteer. Beyond attending board meetings, you’ll find me having coffee with people who want advice on starting a business, collecting clothing donations, and attending jail meetings.

What makes for an effective board member or volunteer?

First and foremost is a passion for the organization and the mission! That is what gets you involved and keeps you involved. You’ll find your business experience and life experience are greatly appreciated.

What are your goals for community service in 2019?

While I’m in San Francisco, I plan to volunteer at a local prison with Defy Ventures, a nonprofit that is helping felons to transform their lives by tapping into their entrepreneurial skills. Take the example of a former drug dealer. They’ve had to understand supply and demand, price their product, manage logistics, and manage sales. Defy Ventures is using entrepreneurship as a tool for human potential.

What are some of the benefits of community engagement?  

Board service often leads to business skills and perspectives that are very different from our day-to-day work. Volunteering expands our understanding and empathy toward different people, cultures and life experiences. These lessons carry over into our personal and professional lives in ways that help us engage with each other and the world with greater sensitivity.

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