Businessperson Patricia Mahecha has come a long way since she arrived in the United States from Colombia in 1980. She did not speak any English then.
Now, the East Elmhurst resident is the president of a non-profit organization and a volunteer organization, the vice president of a real estate insurance company, the owner of a modeling agency, and above all she is a wife and a mother of three children.
“I consider myself a leader in the community,” Mahecha said.
Mahecha prepared herself for her new life in America by taking English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in North Miami Bay Community College and at Queens College. She is already a licensed broker and notary public, but she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Commercial Insurance from St. John’s University.
For 14 years, Mahecha has worked for her real estate insurance company Abetx International Brokers. She is in charge of selling commercial insurance for buildings, small businesses, boats and planes, but she prefers to deal with obtaining permits and workers compensation cases. Her husband Jose Eduardo Giraldo sells life insurance.
“It’s fascinating,” she said. “Insurance teaches you to think about the future.”
As president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens (HCCQ) since September 2009, Mahecha hopes to help more small business owners and the Hispanic community by increasing its membership from 1,374 members to 3,000 members. She also wants to start a student chapter of the chamber.
“We hope it grows much more,” said Mahecha, who joined HCCQ in 2000. “I think that we as Hispanics we should integrate.”
Mahecha will be president of the chamber until July of 2011. Starting this July 1, she will also be the president of the Universal Lions Club of Queens. She also runs Modelamos Talent Agency, a modeling school. She considers it her hobby to teach young girls from ages 3 to 16 modeling, good morals and etiquette.
“They are our future,” Mahecha said. “We must embrace our youth. These children are our children.”
Lately, it has been harder for Mahecha to separate work from home. Her 14-year-old son Eduardo Giraldo, who is in the seventh grade, was diagnosed with diabetes over a year ago. At first, she said it was very hard on her. Now, they are all getting support through family therapy and her son is seeing a psychiatrist.
“We have a strong family,” she said. “One has to accept the good and the bad. I never thought this would happen to me, but after a while you start to identify with other people.”