Achieving the Dream is grateful to welcome Nickolas P. Certo to its Board of Directors. Formerly the senior vice president at PNC Bank, Nick brings a wealth of experience surrounding higher education banking and student finance to the board. Keep reading to learn more about the newest addition to team ATD.
Q: What drew you to Achieving the Dream’s mission? And what do you hope to bring to the Board of Directors?
A: The mission of Achieving the Dream captured my imagination. I can clearly see how community colleges effect positive change in our communities and the value ATD brings to their efforts. I worked in the higher education space for the last 16 years of my career at PNC Bank. During those years I gained a deep respect for the administrators and educators who work hard to fulfill the missions of our colleges and universities. I built a network among them and worked with them closely. By using my experience in higher education, finance, and banking, I hope to add value to the work done by Achieving the Dream.
Q: As the first in your family to go to college, how have your experiences shaped your ideas about higher education?
A: My education opened innumerable doors for me and profoundly changed the arc of my life. It gave me the ability to make a difference in the lives of my family members and ultimately my community. I brought what I learned home to help my parents and siblings. I advised them on investing, home buying, banking, and other topics that were part of my studies. In this way I returned something to the village that made college a reality for me. I learned firsthand how providing a higher education is much more than an investment in one person’s future; educating one person is an investment that can benefit everyone in their family, their community, their world.
Q: What’s a fun fact about you that most people would find surprising?
A: I am a mountain, forest, and winter person. By that I mean I would rather hike in the mountains than walk on the beaches, rather ski than sail. Mountains make my pulse rise and forests are a spiritual place for me. Cold weather isn’t a negative, to me it’s an opportunity for fun and free-spirited enjoyment. Like skiing — where else can a man my age go to dress up like an astronaut and play in snow all day?
Q: On your ATD bio page, you describe education as the “foundation upon which [people’s] lives can be built.” What is one thing you think community colleges can do to become stronger foundations for America’s learners?
A: As I became more educated, I became more valuable to my family, friends, and community. I funneled what I learned to many others who were not privileged to earn a degree. The times when I could use my education to help others have been some of my most deeply felt achievements. Thankfully, that was an organic process for me — I naturally gravitated to being less self-centered and more community-oriented. That shift in thinking isn’t automatic. I was lucky to have mentors and guides who showed me the way. I believe community colleges are uniquely positioned to be the bridge between their students and their communities. It should be the mission of community colleges to prepare their students to make a better life for themselves and to lift their communities as well.Read Nick Certo's bio