PORTLAND — Seven years ago, Carine Rugema Stubbs was a senior at Deering High School who was enrolled in the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program.

Born of Rwandan parents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she was a recent war refugee who hoped the program would give her the skills to write an eye-catching resume, ace job interviews and generally make her way in a new country.

Now, a college graduate and a bank manager, Stubbs is giving back to Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, a program that helps high school students scale barriers to graduation and succeed in higher education and the work force.

Stubbs is teaching monthly financial literacy classes for students in the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program at Youth Building Alternatives, an alternative high school operated by LearningWorks, a social service agency on Brackett Street.

On Tuesday, Stubbs reviewed basics of building good credit and writing a check, from filling in the amount of money to signing them.

“That’s important,” Stubbs, 26, told the students. “If there’s no signature, they won’t cash it, deposit it or anything else.”

Stubbs has come a long way since graduating from Deering High in 2004. Interested in helping people, she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Southern Maine. Last October, she entered a management training program at KeyBank and recently was named customer relationship manager at the Commercial Street branch.

Students and staff members at Youth Building Alternatives say Stubbs’ personal experience and educational background make her an ideal role model for the 35 students in the alternative high school program.

Youth Building Alternatives serves students in their late teens and early 20s. It teaches carpentry skills, provides construction certification and offers General Educational Development diplomas. Because many of the students live on their own, the program offers incentive-based stipends of $12 to $18 per day, depending on attendance, participation and behavior.

“These kids have struggled in traditional classrooms, so if I lectured them on the importance of building good credit, I’d be looking at dazed eyes,” said Eric Moynihan, a Jobs for Maine’s Graduates instructor at Youth Building Alternatives. “Bringing people like Carine into the classroom or getting them out into a real learning environment makes a big difference.”

Next month, the students from Youth Building Alternatives will visit the KeyBank at Monument Square.

“The fact that (Stubbs) participated in the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program really resonates with our students,” said Bodi Luse, LearningWorks spokeswoman. “She’s able to connect with them and make topics relevant with them.”

Immediately following Stubbs’ first visit in February, Sam Gravely opened his first checking account. A Boston-area native, the 25-year-old Gravely dropped out of high school when he was a sophomore and spent some time in prison before coming to Youth Building Alternatives last fall.

“I liked what she had to say about having an account,” Gravely said of Stubbs. “I thought it was time to grow up and start building good credit and being financially responsible. She lets me know that it’s possible, that the goal is reachable.”

Chelsey Graham has made a similar connection with Stubbs. Now 17, Graham dropped out of Penquis Valley High School in Milo during her third year as a freshman. It was one of several high schools she attended without finding a place for herself or connecting with teachers. She plans to study social work in college.

“If (Stubbs) can become the person she is today, I can do it, too,” Graham said.

Stubbs’ visits to Youth Building Alternatives are part of KeyBank Plus, the bank’s statewide effort to build financial literacy in the community and attract customers otherwise unlikely to engage in banking. Stevan Stromsky, a vice president and manager of the Monument Square branch, joins Stubbs on her visits.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who haven’t been coached in financial basics,” Stromsky said. “Carine is an accomplished young lady and she believes in helping others. She’s an excellent example for these students.”

Stubbs, who is newly married and lives in Scarborough, says she gets a lot out of the experience, too. She enjoys talking with the students, answering their questions and hearing about their dreams. One student stopped her in the Maine Mall recently to talk about building a good credit score. Another told her Tuesday about his plans to get a culinary arts degree and open a restaurant.

“I like that they can come up to me and talk to me like that,” she said.

At the very least, she hopes the students understand the importance of being financially responsible.

“It says a lot about you,” Stubbs said. “Whatever you do, wherever you go, it’s a key to being respected and having success.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]