To most of her friends from high school, Chantel Pitts is not 'Chantel,' she's 'Ohio.'
That's what happens when you change schools — and states — when you are 15 years old. The move becomes a defining chapter in your life story.
Pitts moved from Bridgeport, Ohio, (population 1,831) to Chattanooga about 14 years ago and enrolled in Central High School, where she graduated in 2009. Rather than taking time to learn her name, her new friends on the cheerleading squad just began calling her 'Ohio,' and the name stuck.
"It was a culture shock when I moved down here," Pitts remembers. Everything was different, she says, "the things I wore, the way I did my hair, the way I spoke."
Today, at age 29, Pitts is a financial services representative at the main office of First Horizon Bank at Market and Seventh streets. While most professionals are just getting their careers established in their late 20s, Chantel already has almost 10 years experience in the banking business.
As a licensed financial services representative, she is sort of a jack of all trades.
"I do everything," she says. "I can make a deposit, sell life insurance and annuities. I honestly enjoy taking care of my customers."
Pitts traces her financial acumen to an accounting class in high school that piqued her interest in numbers and ledgers. She started as a part-time bank teller when she was just 19 and taking classes at Chattanooga State Community College.
Back then, her employer was called First Tennessee Bank, and she worked at the Hamilton Place branch. The name changed to First Horizon last year when the Memphis-based bank company with 250 offices adapted to its growing, multi-state footprint.
The 156-year old bank has been in the Chattanooga market since 1976, when it acquired Hamilton National Bank, which was once the biggest bank in the city.
* Age: 29
* Career: Financial Services Representative, First Horizon Bank
* Hobbies: Dancing
* Hometown: Bridgeport, Ohio
Pitts was working limited hours at the bank when First Tennessee offered her a full-time job. Over the years, she transitioned from bank teller into the financial services job and began taking online classes through Strayer University.
Her online studies are concentrated in communications, Pitts says, and she would eventually like to work in the bank's communications and marketing department.
To enhance her professional development, Pitts is part of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Protege program for promising young business people.
"I've 150-percent enjoyed the people I have met (through the Protege Chattanooga program)," she says. "I've made new friends and I've met small businesspersons."
In 2018, Pitts graduated from the Chattanooga Women's Institute mentoring program.
"For me it was about the empowerment of women, and the fact that we don't have to stand in a corner any more," she says.