Odette Geraldino lives just blocks from another community college, but chose BMCC, she says, “because it’s close to the financial district, and I like the diversity at BMCC.”
Having moved from the Dominican Republic at age 16, Geraldino graduated from Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx the month she turned 17, and entered BMCC that fall.
In June 2012, just before she turned 19, she walked across the commencement stage at the Jacob Javits Center to accept her associate degree in accounting from BMCC—and celebrate her 4.0 GPA.
“As I was growing up I thought of being a journalist, a diplomat, a detective,” she says. “My mom’s a lawyer, so I thought I’d be a lawyer, and my dad’s an electrical engineer, so I thought I’d be an engineer. But gradually I noticed I’m good at business and finances. When I was 11, I helped my aunt make Excel spreadsheets when she was the treasurer of her co-op board, and I loved it.”
The alchemy of hard work
At BMCC, Geraldino’s love of all things accounting earned her the Josh Wolfson Scholarship, the Sr. VP/Dean of Academic Affairs Award, and the Latino Honor Society Award for Academic Excellence.
She accomplished all this while working part-time in a tax agency in the Bronx. “I studied when I got home at night,” she says. “I’d stay up till one or two if I had to.”
She was also involved with BMCC’s New York Fellowship Program sponsored by Goldman Sachs, and completed several internships, including one at the nearby NYC Department of Finance, where she audited attorneys’ vouchers for expert court witnesses.
For this teenager, though, it isn’t all work, and no play.
“I like playing basketball even though I’m short,” she says, “and I like reading novels. My favorite writer is Paolo Coehle. The Alchemist shaped my high school years; it’s about finding yourself and your dreams. I actually made a big cardboard map of my life, things I wanted to learn; from how to drive, to belly dancing, to getting my degree. It was my way of making a visual of what I learned from that book.”
More than punching numbers
Geraldino is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Baruch College. “I intend to minor in Italian,” she says. “One of my dreams is to travel to Italy and work in an international accounting firm.”
Her focus meanwhile, continues to be auditing. “I think it’s the most social branch of accounting because you have to meet with clients,” she says. “It’s not just about punching numbers into a system.”
One of her role models at BMCC, accounting professor Corinne Crawford, “sold me the accounting dream like nobody else,” Geraldino says. “But she also told us it was hard, and not for everyone.”
Professor Crawford, says Geraldino, “applied her own experience as an auditor to her lessons in class, and explained how accounting can be a platform for building your future; whether you want to be an entrepreneur, work in a large firm, a small firm, or even academia. That’s what she did, going from the Big Four firms to being a professor. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of accounting as a chosen field, and a place to start your professional life.”