We asked our 2017-18 Student of the Year and Student Ambassadors to reflect on their senior year of high school and share the impact Junior Achievement of New York has had on their lives. Read about their JA experiences below.
- Usman Ghani, 2017-18 Student of the Year
- Jahnia Cherenfant, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Yeda Dayao, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Dechokyab De, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Nicole Hernandez, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Leianna Joseph, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Kimberly Patino, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Franklin Saeteros, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Brianna Serna, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
- Gerald Urena, 2017-18 Student Ambassador
Usman Ghani, 2018 Graduate of High School of Economics and Finance
Junior Achievement of New York’s 2017-2018 Student of the Year is Muhammad ‘Usman’ Ghani, a graduating senior at the High School of Economics and Finance. Usman’s experience as Student of the Year and his participation in programs including Job Shadows and Be Entrepreneurial have provided him with opportunities he might not have had without JA.
In addition to forming bonds with executives at top finance institutions and practicing his public speaking and leadership skills, Usman now has a solid foundation of personal finance knowledge, entrepreneurial tools, and an understanding of business in general. He is prepared to enter the real world and handle taxes, financial statements, risk taking, decision-making, and so much more – all thanks to his experience with JA.
Usman will be attending Middlebury College to study Business and Enterprise, and we cannot wait to see him back in New York City in a few years as an employee of a top financial firm.
Jahnia Cherenfant, 2018 Graduate of Brooklyn Preparatory High School
Junior Achievement opens doors for students outside of their classrooms – providing opportunities they might never have. Jahnia Cherenfant from Brooklyn Preparatory High School is a great example of this. As a member of the Junior Achievement club at her high school, Jahnia participated in various JA New York programs that allowed her to truly recognize her full potential.
Jahnia was always confident with public speaking, but teaching wasn’t something she had really thought about until JA High School Heroes came along. After teaching JA programming to elementary school students, Jahnia realized she has the capability and skills to captivate a classroom and offer new, important information. She has always been interested in giving back, but her time with JA New York exposed the impact that an organization can have on people. Now, Jahnia plans to stay involved with JA New York, as well as other notable organizations, to ensure that she contributes to the well-being of her community.
Next year, Jahnia will attend SUNY Geneseo and explore various career opportunities, from communications to education. We look forward to following Jahnia’s journey, wherever her education may take her.
Yeda Dayao, 2018 Graduate of High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies
JA Finance Park is one of JA New York’s most influential capstone programs. Through real-life simulations, middle and high school students practice creating budgets for their housing, transportation, insurance, child care, and more based on randomly assigned personal scenarios.
Yeda Dayao, a graduating senior at the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, credits her experience at JA Finance Park for filling her with the confidence to budget for herself and make smart economic choices. Now, each time Yeda receives paycheck from her after-school job, she pays herself first by putting some into savings. Then, she separates her wants from her needs and determines how much she can spend on both. Both of these are concepts she learned directly from Junior Achievement.
Yeda will be attending York College’s Occupational Therapy program in the fall, and she is confident that she has the knowledge and skills she will need to maintain strong personal finances. She is empowered to take on the real world and all the expenses, both budgeted and unexpected, that come with adulthood – all because of JA New York.
Dechokyab De, 2018 Graduate of High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies
Dechokyab De (De), a graduating senior at the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, will be attending Colgate University this fall as a Biochemistry major on track for medical school. De’s experience with JA New York, particularly as a High School Hero and participant in JA Be Entrepreneurial, opened his eyes to the importance of education in one’s life and pushed him to define success for himself and ultimately reach for it.
De is graduating high school with a passion for education and an understanding of the skills he will need to transform his education into a successful career. Thanks to his participation in Junior Achievement programs, he has experience teaching elementary school students about personal finance, networking with top business executives, collaborating with his peers, thinking creatively and critically, and so much more.
De is empowered to continue his education and turn it into a bright future, and we can’t wait to see what he does.
Nicole Hernandez, 2018 Graduate of Academy of Finance and Enterprise
Nicole Hernandez, a graduating senior at the Academy of Finance and Enterprise, was first introduced to Junior Achievement of New York as a 9th grader. Like most freshmen in high school, Nicole didn’t have an innate sense of personal finance or a concrete plan for her future. JA New York, however, provided Nicole with various opportunities to change this.
Nicole participated in Job Shadows, Finance Park, the JA New York Business Plan Competition, and High School Heroes. From exploring the ins and outs of various companies to passing down JA lessons to elementary school students, Nicole got hands-on experience fine-tuning the skills she needs to take control of her future.
Now, Nicole has an understanding of how to manage money effectively, how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace, and the value of giving back to her community. JA New York’s programs and volunteers have inspired Nicole to become a passionate leader in her future and empowered her to know she can do exactly what she sets her mind to.
We know that Nicole has the skills and determination to become the confident leader she wants to be, and we can’t wait to follow her journey to success.
Leianna Joseph, 2018 Graduate of Hillcrest High School
Leianna Joseph, a graduating senior at Hillcrest High School, has known she wants to be a teacher for a long time. But it was her participation in JA New York programs that empowered her to feel she can.
As a JA High School Hero, Leianna gained an understanding of what it’s like to stand in front of a classroom and work to make an impact in students’ lives. She is more prepared for the challenges that a career in education brings, and she is confident that each child she teaches will help her grow as an individual and an educator.
Although some of Leianna’s friends and family members encouraged her to explore other career options, she has always leaned towards education. And when a JA volunteer told her the best thing she can do for her career is to pursue what she’s passionate about, she became even more inspired to follow her heart towards the classroom.
Thanks to JA volunteers and her own time as a High School Hero, Leianna is ready for her new start at St. John’s University for Adolescent Education with a major in Biology. We are thrilled to see where Leianna’s pursuit takes her and the lives she impacts through her own career in education.
Kimberly Patino, 2018 Graduate of Richmond Hill High School
For graduating senior at Richmond Hill High School, Kimberly Patino, Junior Achievement has been instrumental in cultivating money management skills at a young age. Though she has always been aware of the importance of budgeting and making smart choices, Kimberly’s participation in JA New York has given her the hands-on experience she needed to become comfortable with these concepts.
Now, when Kimberly is out shopping, she stops to think whether she really needs an item, or if her money should go towards helping her mother with their bills. She now sets up spreadsheets to carefully budget her expenses and help her make smart financial decisions.
Beginning this summer, Kimberly will be attending a preparatory school for the US Naval Academy, where she will be able to use the decision-making skills and confidence she cultivated during her time with JA New York to succeed, and we are thrilled to see her take on the real world as a prepared and savvy young adult.
Franklin Saeteros, 2018 Graduate of Academy of Finance and Enterprise
Franklin Saeteros is a graduating senior from the Academy of Finance and Enterprise, a school that Junior Achievement of New York works very closely with. Franklin is just one student who’s been significantly impacted by JA New York’s programming. The process of becoming a JA Student Ambassador and passing on his financial literacy knowledge to elementary school students through JA High School Heroes have been the most empowering for Franklin.
As a JA Student Ambassador, Franklin and his peers were given opportunities to network with top executives, share their stories to a room of almost 400 people, and form a bond with one another as representatives of JA New York in their schools and communities. As a JA High School Hero, Franklin was able to not only teach younger students about money, but he was able to be part of a bigger movement with JA – one that brings important lifelong skills to young people.
Most notable for Franklin, JA New York allowed him to share his passion for JA with others, while helping him cultivate his interview, networking, public speaking, and leadership skills. We are so excited to see where these skills take Franklin as he leaves high school for and prepares to start Dickinson College in the fall.
Brianna Serna, 2018 Graduate of Cathedral High School
Not all high school students know what they are interested in majoring in when they go to college. Not all students know what type of career they want to pursue after college. Brianna Serna is not one of those students. And she has Junior Achievement of New York to thank for that. A graduating senior from Cathedral High School, Brianna can confidently say she wants to study engineering in college and ultimately open her own business.
Engineering has always been her passion, but Brianna’s participation in JA New York opened her eyes to the possibilities of combining engineering with business and all the various job opportunities out there in both fields. JA volunteers helped Brianna form a foundation of entrepreneurship skills through JA Be Entrepreneurial, and she credits them for giving her the inspiration and confidence to know that she can create a business out of her greatest interest.
Brianna will be attending New York University Tandon School of Engineering in the fall, and we know she will arrive on her first day with the confidence to reach her full potential and the inspiration to continue to build her personal finance and entrepreneurial skills.
Gerald Urena, 2018 Graduate of Freeport High School
For some students, Junior Achievement is a source of inspiration for their careers. For others, it’s a door to college. For Gerald Urena, graduating senior at Freeport High School, Junior Achievement is a lesson in making a difference.
Gerald’s most prominent memory with JA New York is High School Heroes. Teaching elementary school students lessons in personal finance opened Gerald’s eyes to the difference he can make in his community and in people’s lives. It was when his students ran up to him begging him not to leave that he realized his teaching impacted them, and that feeling is something he will carry with him forever. Growing up as a shy kid, Gerald typically chose to stay away from the action and avoid being in the spotlight. However, the public speaking and leadership skills that JA High School Heroes helped Gerald cultivate transformed his shyness into a passion for presenting in front of people and taking on leadership roles. Now, Gerald is prepared to enter the real world. He’s prepared to make mistakes, learn from them, and keep moving forward.
In the fall, Gerald will be attending NYIT Old Westbury with a goal to become a trauma nurse or trauma doctor. We are thrilled to see the difference Gerald makes in the world as his education continues and career begins.