[IMGCAP(1)] During my first of two summers as an intern at Ernst & Young, I had the opportunity to go to a New York City high school with my fellow audit interns to teach students about financial planning processes. I had a flashback to my own high school experience at A. Philip Randolph High School in Harlem, New York City, where I had a wonderful mentor: Ms. Helise Owens of the Minds Matter program. She met with me every Saturday throughout high school to expose me to the possibility of higher education. She made a difference.
At Ernst & Young, there was a structure in place to help me balance work, personal life and community service. I was only an intern, but already I was making a difference. The experience allowed me to help urban youth in the same way Ms. Helise helped expose me to college and Georgetown University. As a first-generation college graduate, Im so excited to launch my career at a firm where there is a global commitment to education access and one-third of the employees are in their familys first generation to attend college.
First-generation college graduates do not get there alone. I certainly didnt. Like many, I couldnt have come this far without help from my family especially my mother. She left school after fifth grade to help support her family. But she inspired me and made sure that I valued honesty, hard work and persistence.
I can remember exactly when I first knew I wanted a career in accounting. In high school, I was always good with numbers, so when I got to Georgetown, I tried an accounting course. For me, that course was a revelation. Numbers were not just numbers; they represented a reality dollars or units of inventory and by becoming an accountant, I could have a career and make a difference. So I committed to a double major in accounting and finance. Some people will tell you that this is the most difficult undergraduate degree at Georgetown. I wont argue. By my senior year, I was carrying six business courses while studying for my GMAT. Im happy to say that I graduated in four years and I am joining Ernst & Youngs New York office this October.
I had offers from other accounting firms, but from my first interview at Ernst & Young, I felt that I was in the right place for me. My internships truly helped me envision my career path and confirmed that Ernst & Young is the place to launch my career. I had several mentors during my first summer of internal, actuarial work and opportunities to understand how the audit service line operates.
Now, as a Latina and a first-generation college graduate, I am looking forward to beginning my career. This summer, I am taking courses for my masters degree, sponsored by Ernst & Young. I know there will be hard work ahead, but I also know that Im working in an organization that prioritizes work/life balance. I will have time for my family, time to give back to my community and time to expand the mentoring I did with cousins and neighbors while I was an undergraduate. Things are truly beginning to add up.
Jennifer Estrella, a 2009 Georgetown University graduate in finance and accounting, was involved in Ernst & Young's corporate responsibility efforts to encourage at-risk youth to finish high school and pursue a college degree while she was an intern with the firm. A first-generation college graduate who hails from Harlem, Jennifer looks forward to continuing her efforts to encourage students to pursue higher education when she joins Ernst & Young's audit practice full-time in October 2009.