When Melanie Cervantes turned 18 she had three goals: go to college to study business, get a great credit score and make her parents proud.
Now 20, Cervantes is gearing up for a prestigious summer internship with Ernst & Young (EY), a Big 4 accounting firm.
It won’t be her last. She already has another internship lined up with Kassouf & Co. in spring 2024. She’s also a volunteer with the on-campus Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, treasurer of Pi Chi Teta business fraternity and a junior, a challenging year for an accounting student.
Cervantes manages it all while facing several challenges in her impressive rise to the top of her class.
Cervantes is the oldest of five children. She moved from Mexico with her family and started school knowing little English. Growing up in a big household on a small budget is partially what inspired her to want to learn more about money. Cervantes is a frst-generation college student and admitted that going through her frst semester with no one to guide her was tough.
“I didn’t have anyone to look up to or anyone around me to ask like, ‘Hey, where are you going? How has it been? Have you liked it?’” said Cervantes.
While she earned a few scholarships for her high school performance, they didn’t cover everything. As a result, she’s been paying for everything else out of her own pocket.
“One major goal has always been to grad- uate without loans and without debt. And I’m still going strong!” said Cervantes. “My parents have helped me along the way. But also I have been working my absolute hardest to pay for everything on my own.”
That goal got easier last summer when Cervantes received an unexpected phone call from Staci Kolb, her accounting adviser. Kolb told her she was the frst recipient of the James and Jennifer Newman Endowed Accounting Scholarship.
Established in 2021 by James ’74 and Jennifer Newman, the scholarship is awarded annually to a junior, senior or ffth-year accounting major, with a preference toward frst-generation students who have a demon- strated fnancial need for scholarship support.
“I was like, ‘What did I do? How did I win it?’” said Cervantes. “She (Kolb) just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And that’s when it hit me: Just keep doing what I’m doing. That means…I might be doing a good job!”
Cervantes credits her success to the quality and personal attention of her accounting professors.
“They’re really invested in the students’ professional lives, even after graduating. It’s just great to have professors who truly care about you and about your interests,” said Cervantes.