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07-14-14: Walker High alumna is assistant bank manager in Puyallup
07-14-14: Walker High alumna is assistant bank manager in Puyallup
Posted on 07/14/2014
After failing her ninth-grade classes and on the brink of dropping out of school, Karissa Thompson enrolled at Walker High in tenth grade and started a transformation that led not only to her graduation, but to a successful career.


Thompson is assistant manager of Heritage Bank in downtown Puyallup and a leader in several local service clubs and organizations.


She owes much of her success, she said, to the people and lessons learned during her nearly three years at Walker High School — the district’s only alternative school.


On paper, Thompson is a 1996 Puyallup High graduate. She took her final English class there and graduated with the rest of the Vikings.


But talk to her about her teen years, and she proudly refers to Walker High as “my high school.”


Thompson started failing school in her ninth-grade year in Renton, and things didn’t improve after she moved to Puyallup the middle of that year.


“I wasn’t very focused, and I hung out with the wrong people and didn’t care about school,” she said.


That all changed at Walker High.


“I needed extra attention, and I found it there,” she said. “They held high expectations and basically said, ‘either you meet them or you are out of here.’”


Thompson said she owes special thanks to two educators in particular who helped her through tough times.


Former Walker High Principal Earlene Bogrand “believed in me more than I believed in myself,” Thompson said. “If I was goofing off, she would say, ‘you are better than this.’ She was a cheerleader who was always rooting for me.”


Thompson also remembers her social studies and P.E. teacher, Colin Findlay, who still teaches at Walker High.

“Mr. Findlay was awesome,” Thompson recalled. “He embraced my character and always dealt with me with respect. He made me want to try really hard.”


Findlay describes Thompson as a “very memorable student.”


“She was always very enthusiastic and full of energy at school, and a staff favorite for her spunky personality,” he said. “I could just tell that one day she would make her mark in whatever life pursuit she chose.”


After high school, Thompson worked a variety of jobs before landing a position with Heritage Bank, where she has worked the past 11 years.


She started off working retail at a Sears store after several years working the drive-through window at McDonalds during high school.


With little other experience, Thompson borrowed one of her mother’s work suits, aced an interview, and landed a job as an event coordinator for Jillian’s Billiard Café in Tacoma.


Four years later, she was hired as a teller at Credit Union of Puget Sound, which is now First Security Bank in downtown Puyallup.


At the credit union, later renamed Washington Credit Union, Thompson quickly learned about operations and mortgage handling and was soon promoted to a corporate trainer.


The Puyallup resident commuted three hours to the credit union’s main office in Mount Lake Terrace, as well as to other branches, to train new employees.


When a new accounts representative job opened with Heritage Bank’s Spanaway branch closer to home, Thompson was hired and later promoted to operations supervisor — a position since renamed to her current assistant manager title.


Thompson later moved to the Heritage Bank branch on South Hill, and as of last November, to the two branches in downtown Puyallup. Her duties include completing branch audits, fielding customer care calls, training team members, and participating in lending and new accounts.


During her time at the Heritage Bank South Hill branch, Thompson initiated an annual art show featuring Puyallup School District student work in grades nine through 11.


The art show focuses each year on “Puyallup’s History Through the Future’s Eyes,” and cash awards are given to first, second, and third place winners.


“I want the youth to understand the community is here for them,” she said.


Thompson has other ideas of how to help students, including those from her alma mater, now that she works in the downtown Puyallup branches. She is considering offering free seminars for high school students and others who are interested in learning how to manage their finances.


Her dream, she said, is to be a motivational speaker, especially at the high school level.


A single mother of two, Thompson volunteers with her elementary-age children at the Puyallup Food Bank and Tacoma Rescue Mission. She has also helped with the Salvation Army on South Hill, Single Soldiers Turkey Drop program, and Helping Hand House.


She bakes birthday cakes and gets community toy donations for children served by Helping Hand House. The organization provides temporary housing for people in need and provides workforce and other life-skills training to enable families living in poverty.


Thompson is also the Puyallup Rotary Club membership chair and an ambassador with the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce.


“If there is someone new in town, I get them connected,” she said. “My passion is partnering people and organizations.”