Colin Powell School
“Motivation comes from knowing the end goal.”
As a single mom of three, Heather Stewart forged her path to the United States with hopes of making a difference in the lives of her family and serving as a change agent for her community. Now that all her children have graduated from college, Stewart is putting herself back on course to make her dreams a reality. With a dual degree in Psychology and Business Management, Stewart hopes to start a new career in the financial sector. As a transfer from BMCC, Stewart took part in our inaugural cohort of Bridges to Success, an onboarding course for new transfer students that explores the history of student power and activism at CCNY, and ways to leverage the college experience for personal and professional success. She was chosen to serve as one of the school’s first Student Success Guides, a peer mentoring initiative intended to support new students as they start their career at CCNY, and now works as a private house manager, supervising estate employees and contractors and managing its monthly budget to maintain daily operations. As she plans her next steps after college, Stewart hopes to continue her education with a master’s program after getting work experience, and to inspire young women and single mothers to pursue their own passions and find their purpose.
Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?
I was born on the Caribbean Island of Jamaica from a small town tucked away in the parish of St. Catherine. The memory of landing in the United States at the tender age of twenty remains vivid in my mind. I had big dreams for myself. I wanted to attend college — be someone important and change the lives of my family — but I soon became a young single mom. With motherhood now my reality, I quickly realized that I had to put my dreams on the backburner and serve my children’s dreams, ensuring their success through education. All three of my children are now holding degrees (my eldest got her MBA from Michigan State, second daughter received a BA in Psychology from the University of Bridgeport, and the last is pursuing a Law degree at Columbia). Now that they’re all adults, I can put myself back on the path of making my dreams a reality. Before attending CCNY, I received an associate degree from BMCC in Business Administration, and I will finish my dual degree program in Psychology and Business Management this spring. The resounding note in my house is to value education because it is the great equalizer, as with education we can close so many gaps.
What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?
The passion of changing lives still runs through my veins. I see myself speaking and inspiring an audience of untapped potentials. I know there is a young mother out there with a dream, but her reality is daunting. I know there is a woman out there with the desire of wanting to capture her dream of an education, but school seems intimidating. I speak to that young mother and that woman because I am her. If I can do it, so can you! Securing my bachelors from CCNY has opened opportunities far beyond my imagination. The challenges of being a non-traditional student can be overwhelming and intimidating. But here at CCNY, the diverse environment, the reassuring staff, and my wonderful classmates allow me to be myself. I can thrive here because of my professors and my peers, and by engaging in school life.
Where are you in your career? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?
I’d like to shift my career to the financial sector. I currently work as a house manager where I supervise employees and manage the estate’s budget, but I recently interviewed with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Healthfirst. Having the opportunity to interview with these institutions comes from the support system I have at the Collin Powell school, and through other offices like Future in Finance (FiF), the Career and Professional Development Institute (CPDI), and connecting with professors like Sarah Dyer Dana, the new Leader-in-Residence who teaches Fundamentals of Business and Leadership Communications.
What are your post-graduation plans?
With my undergraduate degree journey coming to an end, the desire to keep pursuing higher education is at the top of my to do list. I plan on applying to a Master’s in Business at Baruch College with a concentration in Financial Analytics. However, before graduate school I plan on working for a year so as to gain industry experience. In years to come, I also plan on establishing a foundation for young mothers to assist them with finding their purpose and voices.
Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY.
So many memories and experiences, but two stand out. I remember applying for the Student Success Guide (SSG) mentorship program. It was a new program at the time that was seeking students to mentor incoming freshmen and transfer students and to ease them into college life. Securing the position gave me the ability to work with fellow incoming students and navigate the challenges of college. As a mentor, I also had the wonderful experience of working on the team with Cynthia Gutierrez, Director for Mentoring and Alumni Relations. She has taught me how to lead in a gentle but impactful way, and I will apply her leadership style throughout my life. SSG taught me how to collaborate with younger people and to serve people with genuine fears and trepidations of a new environment. I also remember registering for Bridges to Success with Professor James Suggett, which was one of my first classes at the Colin Powell School. I really enjoyed the experience, and his feedback reassured me of my decision to further my education and to keep striving for excellence.
Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
Put in the work, study hard, make use of the resources and enjoy the ride. Two to four years will go by quickly. Make sure at the end of your time here at CCNY you hold no regrets. The school is loaded with resources, you will find them in posters around the campus, in the professors, the tutors, and all the offices filled with individuals yearning to help you succeed. Know that working hard has its rewards. I leave a quote with you, “Motivation comes from knowing the end goal.” Remembering why you started will get you to the finish line successfully.
How would you describe CPS in three words?
Inclusive, diverse, and resourceful. From my first encounter as a non-traditional student, the Colin Powell School has embraced me with open arms. The faces I see in my various classes are from different backgrounds. This speaks to the schools’ ability to ensure that there is a place and resource for every student.