Toni Cimino might have been expected to gravitate toward the health care field. Her mother is a microbiologist and phlebotomist; her sister is a medical biller studying to be a doctor. But Cimino was more interested in journalism.
“I watched Barbara Walters and ‘20/20’ as a kid,” she recalls. So at Queens College — which she chose for its excellent programs and its accessibility to her Bayside home — she focused on English and business courses.
Although she was juggling her studies with a full-time job teaching pre-kindergarten at a private school, she jumped at the opportunity to take an unpaid internship at Schneps Media, a company that produces newspapers, magazines, specialty publications, websites, and annual events. That internship led to employment at Schneps, where Cimino has been a staffer for a total of 17 years.
“It was a very impressive internship, having Toni work side-by-side with my editorial team,” says Vicki Schneps, publisher and president of her eponymous company. “She was the first one in and the last one to leave. There was no assignment that she didn’t do and complete! Seeing her work ethic is what made me decide that when an opening occurred in our newsroom, she’d be the first one I consider for hiring.”
In 2014, Cimino left for a position with the New York Family for Autistic Children, an agency that serves adults and children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
“I knew its president through the Queens Courier,” she explains, referring to a Schneps paper, now part of QNS.com.
Cimino’s experience at NYFAC, which involved grant writing, gave her insight into the nonprofit world.
After two years at NYFAC, she returned to Schneps’ Bayside headquarters in a new capacity: director of corporate events. “It was like going home,” says Cimino. “Everyone was familiar to me. It was an easy commute from Nassau County, where I live.”
Apart from the fact that all the events she has been planning are now virtual, her job hasn’t changed much in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “I prefer going to the office,” she notes.
On the side, she teaches Zumba.
Reflecting on her career, Cimino tells today’s students, “Never pass by an opportunity. Hard work pays off.”
Hard-working interns pay off for her employer, too. As a matter of fact, two QC students interned this past summer with Schneps Media, which owns a total of 74 media outlets in the New York City area — including Long Island and Westchester — and Philadelphia.
“I love the internships, because I get to see the caliber of the people coming through,” says Schneps. “We tend to hire about 60 to 70 percent of our interns.”
This story first appeared in QUEENS: The Magazine of Queens College and was reprinted with permission from Queens College.