LaGuardia Community College students get their First Big Break

LaGuardia Community College students get their First Big Break
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By Carlotta Mohamed

Rony Estevez is the first member of his family to enroll in college and has seen his life change after getting his big break.

Estevez recently celebrated his third anniversary at Creative Business Inc. — his first employment opportunity after the First Big Break Honors Internship Program at LaGuardia Community College helped him find an internship in accounting. It not only helped him pay for his living expenses, but also earned him class credit.

Estevez, 25, who grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, recently purchased his first home in Jamaica with his fiancée, and he’s on his way to earning a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting at Brooklyn College.

Estevez, a full-time staff accountant at Brooklyn-based Creative Business Inc., is one of many students who have benefitted from the innovative program at LaGuardia Community College designed to help low-income and minority students by providing them with paid internships in their designated field.

According to LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow, many of their students are the first in their family to attend college and have the grit to juggle multiple jobs and responsibilities, but don’t have the connections and opportunities to find career-building internships.

“Coming from LaGuardia, they do touch base on a lot of fundamentals and have a great support system, but when it came to the technology aspect of bookkeeping or accounting there really wasn’t much,” said Estevez. “Coming into Creative Business, it was my very first time opening up the Quickbooks applications…I literally started from the ground up to where I am three years later.”

When students leave the internship, they gain the skills understanding the terminology behind the technology and bookkeeping operations around financial systems, said Jeanne Hardy, founder of Creative Business Inc., which provides financial guidance, operational know-how, and back office support to growing companies.

To date, Hardy has hosted six LaGuardia student-interns — and hired three of them on her staff.

First Big Break was established in 2016, and has placed more than 120 students at internships, where they gain professional experience, mentoring, and an income.

Employer-partners include major entertainment and cultural institutions; businesses that came through from LaGuardia’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program like Creative Business, Inc.; local Long Island City companies; and companies in sectors like finance and insurance, real estate, travel, and a range of other industries.

In order to be selected for an internship, students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA or above and must be enrolled full-time, said Aimeelyn Calandria, one of the program directors of First Big Break.

The LaGuardia Community College Foundation selects and vets high potential students for internships based on how the internship can best fulfill the student’s academic needs and career aspirations. The Foundation acts as intermediary between students and the company partner; sending resumes, coordinating interview schedules, getting feedback and evaluations, and monitoring student progress throughout the internship.

The program accepts applications on a rolling basis from students interested in internships with LaGuardia’s corporate and community partners. The application is open to all students with relevant majors, skills and experience. If applicable to their major, students may receive academic credit for the internship.

To learn about connecting LaGuardia students to internship opportunities, contact the LaGuardia Community College Foundation at (718) 482-5610 or foundation@lagcc.cuny.edu.

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.