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From working in a donut shop to the Federal Reserve: Mary Daly's unlikely journey

It's not because Daly is just the second female president in the 105-year history of the San Francisco Federal Reserve. Nor is she the first openly gay woman to lead any Fed bank.

What really sets Daly apart from her peers is the unlikely journey she took to reach the pinnacle of economics.

When 15 years old, Daly dropped out of high school, which she found "distant and unattractive," because her family was dealing with a series of health and financial emergencies. With the family in chaos, Daly found herself helping by icing donuts at her grandparents' donut shop in Ballwin, Missouri.

"If you asked me at the time: Did I think this was the future? The answer certainly wasn't," Daly told CNN's Poppy Harlow in a Boss Files interview. "I thought my future included being a bus driver. And it would have been a really great job, but I was lucky."

Daly's family did not have much money. They were always just an emergency away from falling through the cracks.

& # 39; I drowned, honest & # 39;

But Daly was lifted again when Betsy, a successful woman in her thirties who was a friend of Daly's tutor, took the teenager under the wing.

Betsy encouraged Daly to get her GED. She even wrote the $ 21

6 check to cover the cost of Daly's first semester of college.

"A check, a small amount to a person, can change everything," Daly said.

But Daly barely made it through college, a place she felt she didn't belong. Daly failed her courses and felt "ashamed" to ask for help.

"I was drowning, honestly. I was overwhelmed," she said.

  Mary Daly, President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, calls herself

Gradually Daly gathered courage to ask for guidance from the Learning Center, where the staff embraced her.

"This learning center experience is really the experience you can have in life," said Daly. "Yes, there are going to be people saying you can't, but they're going to be a lot more people saying you can. But you have to ask."

& # 39; Escape speed & # 39;

Daly earned his bachelor's degree in 1985 in economics and philosophy from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. That's when she achieved what she calls her "escape velocity."

"In the environment you grow up in, you often need enough speed, enough speed, enough oompf to actually get rid of it," Daly said. "I had escape velocity."

Daly would later earn her master's from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, as well as her doctorate from Syracuse University, where she gave address earlier this year.

In 1996, Daly joined the San Francisco Fed, where she headed her robust research department. Last year, she took the helm of the regional bank, which was once led by her mentor Janet Yellen, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

When I look back, Daly knows that her success would not have been possible without the help of Betsy and others around her.

"They stopped thinking of me as a statistic and started thinking of me as a person," Daly said. "I'm probably one of the luckiest people in the world … So many people helped me. I just want to earn a high return for all these people."

Although Daly is the embodiment of the American dream, she worries about the structural gaps that prevent others from achieving similar success stories today.

Daly pointed to uneven access to education as one of the major obstacles to holding back the US economy. If education cannot be leveled, she argued, there will not be enough people working in jobs with the highest demand.

"We will retreat to a future of slow growth if we do not activate all these individuals and give them opportunities," Daly said.

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