Colin Powell School
Importance of Higher Education - Economics Major Kyara Valdez
Born and raised in Washington Heights, Kyara Valdez says that her family – originally from the Dominican Republic – stressed the importance of knowledge and education. Valdez discovered a passion for economics in high school when her family was confronting their own financial struggles. At CCNY, Valdez has strengthened this passion as a Santander Finance Fellow – a new initiative launched by the Colin Powell School to train its highest performing students to be leaders in the finance industry. Valdez has interned at Barclays’ prime brokerage team, and works with the Science Information Technology team at CCNY. Outside of school and her co-curricular activities, she started an at-home bakery in 2021, “Sweets by Kyara,” that you can follow on Instagram. Valdez hopes to use her skills to make a difference and ensure that those around her know how to manage their finances effectively. Her advice for future students is to stay positive, even when things do not seem to be going the way as planned, and to not be afraid to ask for help.
Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?
I am a senior majoring in Economics with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Management and Administration. I was born and raised in Washington Heights with two older siblings. My parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic and have always reminded us of the importance of getting an education. My father always told me, “Mija, remember, the one thing no one can take away from you is your knowledge and education, so be sure to always do your best in school.” My interest in economics began during high school after taking my first economics course. Learning how the decisions of the economy affect our everyday lives piqued my interest in the field, specifically financial economics. Over the past four years, I have been able to narrow down my career focus to analysis as I have always had a love for mathematics and general management. I have also worked with the information technology (IT) team on campus as an assistant since my freshman year. When I am not in school, I run my small business that I started back in January 2021: an at-home bakery called “Sweets By Kyara.”
What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?
Growing up, my parents didn’t have the means to pursue a higher education, so they always stressed the need for a college education and fulfilling the American Dream. At some point, my mother decided that she wanted to set an example and not ask for something she didn’t have herself, and went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree. She inspired me to work hard and graduate as valedictorian of my high school before CCNY. My family's lack of financial knowledge – whether it be maintaining a credit score or the negative effects of past due bills – served as a catalyst in my decision to pursue finance. I’d like to use my skills that I’ve honed in and out of the classroom to make a difference and ensure that my family and others around me manage their finances effectively.
How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?
I currently work part-time on campus with the Science Information Technology (IT) team providing tech support for the division and performing administrative tasks. The Colin Powell School has been an incredible help along the way as I gained experience in finance through the Santander Finance Fellowship – a program that helps future finance professionals gain exposure to the industry and its business areas. I was fortunate to be paired with an amazing mentor, Belen Alonso Robles, who taught me about her role in credit risk and its impact on the macro level. Belen helped me grow my professional network and introduced me to key professionals at Santander. Last summer, I interned at Barclays with the prime brokerage team. It was amazing to learn about all the types of services that the firm offers to hedge funds and other investment clients. I will continue to run my at-home bakery, but I enjoy having the flexibility to work on ‘Sweets by Kyara,’ especially when I need an escape from work and classes.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I am currently applying for analyst positions in different finance functions such as underwriting and portfolio management. I’d also like to continue educating myself about personal finances, especially with credit building and home buying, so I can share my learnings with others.
Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY.
Being awarded the finance fellowship was a total shock because there wasn’t a formal application process. Selection is solely based on how well you perform in the finance bootcamp compared to the rest of the class. Luckily enough, I did really well and was offered one of the 12 spots for the program. I jumped at the opportunity because I knew it would help grow my network, challenge me academically and support the remainder of my studies here. Being able to start my professional career without any debt feels like a huge accomplishment, and I am beyond grateful for it.
Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! You never know who you will meet and how they will impact your life. There are a countless number of individuals I have met during my time at CCNY and CPS and all of them have left a significant impression. Stay positive, even when things do not seem to be going your way or going as planned. Sometimes life has something better in store than you could’ve imagined for yourself. Just be sure that you enjoy whatever it is that you are doing.
How would you describe CPS in three words?
Unique, Powerful, and Determined. I think what makes CPS stand out amongst other universities is its academic advising and ability to support those in need. I am so proud to have found such an amazing school. It’s one of a kind and puts in every effort to see its students succeed.