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Jefferson Award Winner Leads East Bay Students Career Path

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Jefferson Award winner Nicole Felix (CBS)

Jefferson Award winner Nicole Felix (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS 5) – An East Bay recruiter is reaching out to more than potential employees. This week’s Jefferson Award winner is guiding teenagers toward the careers of the future.

For Nicole Felix, it’s not about the numbers. Even though she has a degree in accounting and works for Ernst & Young, Felix has always been about people.

She grew up in Oakland, and after college, joined the National Association of Black Accountants to meet people. The experience led her to volunteer with The Accounting Career Awareness Program, or ACAP in the Bay Area.

For the last 13 years, ACAP has helped introduce local high school students to the world of accounting, but more importantly, expose them to the professional world.

“What they see is what they’ll be,” Felix said confidently. “That’s something that resonated with me and even within myself.”

It also resonated with Estephania Franco. The teenager attended Felix’s ACAP program last summer. For a week, she and thirty classmates got to live on the UC Berkeley campus for free.

“(It) really opened my mind to see really what was out there and, like Nicole said, beyond my block,” Franco said.

“We take them into the classroom, give them classroom exposure, we go out to field trips to different companies like Facebook and Google,” Felix explained. “We just show those students the path that they took in order to work in that industry.”

Franco now wants to attend Berkeley and major in biochemistry.

“I know it’s not accounting, but I think it’s still the corporate world,” Franco said. “The discipline I learned from ACAP I can really carry throughout my life.”

In order to reach younger children, Felix also started the non-profit called L.I.F.E. Courses. Each year, she hosts a youth education conference which gets underrepresented middle school students and their parents to start planning for higher education and careers.

“(The idea is) to get them to start thinking about the possibilities. It’s really important to start as early as possible, then high school just reinforces it,” Felix said.

When the Unity Charter School in Oakland invited Felix to speak to students, she reinforced that message: that someone from their neighborhood could have a much larger world.

“My goal is to help to diversify corporate America at the end of the day,” she said. “I want the students to see all the possibilities that they have. If they just experience it, then they could become successful.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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