​Bridging Dreams and Determination

Jesus Villegas' Journey from East Harlem to Economic Impact


Jesus Villegas

Bridging Dreams and Determination: Jesus Villegas' Journey from East Harlem to Economic Impact

Jesus Villegas, a first-generation college student from East Harlem, is pursuing a BA in Economics with a concentration in Finance. Villegas’ motivation stems from his family's sacrifices and his own experiences, including a transformative period of injury and recovery during the pandemic.

Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?  

My name is Jesus Villegas (He/Him), born and raised in East Harlem, New York. Growing up in this diverse community has deeply influenced my perspective on life and shaped my personal aspirations. I am proud to say I am the first person in my immediate family to have the privilege to attend college. This milestone has not only been a personal achievement of mine, but also shows all the sacrifices and dreams of my family it took to get here. 

Currently, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a concentration in Finance. With my degree, I hope to pursue a career in Finance while ensuring to continue supporting underrepresented communities by giving back through helping projects within low-income communities, mentorship opportunities, or possibly working in the non-profit and/or public sector. 

As a first-gen student, I understand the challenges often faced by students in a similar situation and I also understand the responsibility as a first-gen student to support others. By sharing my own experiences and story, I hope to make a positive impact on the lives of others by inspiring them.

What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?

My purpose behind my studies at CCNY are primarily fueled by my family and loved ones. Their support has been my anchor throughout all my life, they’ve always been there to push and motivate me to do better. Whenever I‘ve struggled, they have always helped me by doing the simplest things which mean everything to me. All my life, my family has lived paycheck to paycheck and I witnessed various struggles which are the reason why I can push through the challenges I face. My dream is to be able to fully maintain them financially and support them to live the rest of their years as happily as they can. 

My passion for finance stems mainly from my time during the pandemic. I was working as a full-time employee at a warehouse in order to support my family financially. However, I began pushing myself a little too much, working more than I should have and putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Eventually, I sustained injuries which led me to the lowest point in my life being bedridden for over two years. I spent much of my time depressed and doing nothing. This all started turning around when I began watching YouTube videos about the stock market. The stock market intrigued me and I began actively investing my own time and money. I decided to return to college after I had recovered enough of my health and strength to study economics due to the passion I developed from compiling and analyzing data and trends. 

Through my studies, I aspire to not only gain the knowledge and expertise in finance but also to leverage this knowledge to make a difference in the lives of my family and others. CCNY provides me with the platform to transform my passion into purpose, equipping me with the right skills, network, and knowledge to ultimately secure a brighter future for myself and my loved ones.

Where are you in your career? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?

This semester marked the transition into my junior year, where I've been actively pursuing a summer internship within the Finance industry. Despite encountering various challenges along the way, I've navigated them to the best of my abilities and take pride in my successes thus far. I firmly believe that what is meant for me will eventually find its way, and in the meantime, I maintain a positive outlook while applying to as many opportunities as possible. I'm excited for the prospect of applying everything I've learned at the Colin Powell School when the right opportunity presents itself.

The Colin Powell School has been instrumental in helping me build a network that played a crucial role in securing my first internship. From the supportive friends who assisted me during mock interviews to the invaluable guidance of my mentors, their support was indispensable in securing the Recruitment and Workforce Intern position at Braven.

At Braven, a relatively new presence on CCNY's campus, I contributed to increasing student engagement, enhancing social media presence, and streamlining outreach efforts through various initiatives. For instance, I engaged in tabling, delivered presentations, and spearheaded the Braven Student Ambassador initiative. As the leader of this project, I trained a team of Braven fellows to assume responsibilities, fostering efficiency and productivity. From starting with just one intern — myself — to leaving behind a team of student ambassadors, I not only supported Braven's mission but also empowered fellow students to enhance their resumes and gain valuable experience and skills.

Following my experience at Braven, the connections forged through the Colin Powell School enabled me to join the CCNY Financial Literacy and Stock Market Club, initially as a member and later as a supporter. This semester, I'm excited to lead the establishment of the ALPFA chapter alongside a fellow Colin Powell School student, Steven Fernandez. With the strong network and support system I've cultivated, I feel confident and eager to share my knowledge, skills, and resources with others. Leading this club provides me with a platform to give back to the community and support students like myself.

What are your post-graduation plans? 

Currently, I find myself in a phase of uncertainty regarding my post-graduation plans. Nevertheless, I remain steadfast in my commitment to furthering the skills I've cultivated during my tenure at the Colin Powell School. In the foreseeable future, I envision charting a career path within the finance sector, leveraging these skills to support causes that resonate deeply with me, particularly those aiding low-income or underrepresented communities.

Whether it entails volunteering, mentorship, or other avenues of community engagement, my goal is to effect positive change and lend support to individuals navigating challenges akin to those I've faced. While the finer details of my post-graduation trajectory may still be hazy, I am resolutely dedicated to exploring opportunities that align harmoniously with my values and aspirations, all in pursuit of crafting a gratifying and impactful professional journey.

Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY. 

I could reminisce about the countless amazing memories I’ve experienced at CCNY. From the invaluable connections with professors to successfully navigating challenging courses or to the friends I have made along the way. However, one particular memory stands out as a significant milestone which is when I landed my first internship at Braven. During the time period when I was bedridden, self-doubt often clouded my mind. There were countless moments where I doubted I would ever get up from the bed again, let alone return to college. 

However, upon my return to CCNY in the Fall of 2022, I remember seizing every opportunity I could in order to gain experiences to build my resume. Eventually this determination led me to enroll in the Braven Leadership Accelerator course as part of their initial cohort during the Spring semester of 2023. When Braven offered internship positions during the middle of the semester, I became determined in securing a position. At the time, I had never held a job outside of being a waiter and working at a warehouse so I really wanted this position. I began dedicating countless hours to prepare by practicing mock interviews, missing out on sleep while juggling all my coursework, and praying to secure the position. 

Eventually I had my interview and I began waiting for a response. After weeks of anticipation, I received an acceptance offer. I still remember all the emotion, crying and being grateful for my first ever opportunity as an intern. Since then, I’ve eagerly anticipated the next chapter of my journey where I hope to be able to participate in a finance-focused internship. 

Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?

Three pieces of advice I wish I knew before starting college would be: 
Be confident: Trust the process and always remain patient despite the setbacks or rejections you may face. Remember, if something is meant for you, it will come in its own time! Have confidence and a bit of patience. 
Manage your time effectively: I know balancing academics, extracurricular activities, and your personal life is VERY difficult. While it is tempting to take on too much sometimes whether it is to build experiences or any other reason. Remember to ALWAYS prioritize your mental and physical health first. Learn from your past experiences and avoid overworking yourself. Make time to socialize, rest, and self care.
Build meaningful connections: Networking is a key to success in life! Challenge yourself to meet new people and create both professional and personal relationships. You never know where these connections may lead, whether it's securing internships, advancing your career, or forming lifelong friendships. Also remember to stay in touch! 

How would you describe CPS in three words? 
Network, Supportive, Opportunities 

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