When Niasia Greenidge-James started high school at the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism in Brooklyn, she wanted to be a chef. But with help from teachers, mentors and an organization called Junior Achievement of New York, the 17-year old is now setting her sights on a business career.
“My ultimate dream is to own a chain of restaurants, worldwide,” she told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman.
With that kind of ambition, it’s no wonder that Greenidge-James was named Junior Achievement of New York’s 2013 Student of the Year. Founded in 1929, Junior Achievement of New York connects K-12 students in New York City and Long Island with business leaders and mentors to teach them financial literacy and entrepreneurship and prepare them for the work force. Greenidge-James has been involved in numerous Junior Achievement programs like the JA New York Business Plan Competition, High School Heroes and the JA New York Young Women’s Leadership Conference. She was a featured speaker at the annual dinner last November where she also received a $10,000 scholarship that she plans to use toward an International Business and Culinary Arts & Food Service Management degree at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
But Greenidge-James doesn’t just credit Junior Achievement for helping her stay driven. “[My parents] have always taught me and my brother to strive for the stars. When I started high school they let me know, this is your journey…it’s up to you to make these four years count,” she said. “I never saw myself as being anything less than my best.”
Greenidge-James says she sees herself as a role model for other young men and women and only has words of encouragement for students in the New York City public school system. “Get involved in your school, find out what your school offers,” she said, stressing the importance of community engagement. “Strive for the best. Don’t settle for anything less, don’t listen to what other people tell you. You can become great.”