An immigrant’s story as an entrepreneur and a leader who fought for her dreams and found her life purpose in education.
Marion Carberry, a Jamaican immigrant of Hispanic descent who moved to Queens, New York City, with her family as a teenager, started life in America living the ups and downs typical of immigrants. She got married out of high school and had a daughter, went to college as it was her life’s dream, but due to life situations, she became a college drop out.
“Years later, I was very down and depressed, and on the radio came a commercial of Audrey Cohen College [ACC], currently Metropolitan College of New York, inviting people to come in. I got on the subway and harkened to the call to my future. ACC welcomed me with open arms and ended up enrolling me in the Bachelor of Business Administration program,” remembers Marion.
It was the best decision she made in her life: she loved the personalized attention paid to students, with small classes that allowed students to progress and achieve their goals. She excelled academically and developed her entrepreneurial spirit that years later would be of enormous value in her life.
Immediately after graduating and now a mother of two, Marion enrolled in the school’s MBA program and upon graduation, ACC offered her an opportunity to teach there. She started lecturing for the bachelor program and fell in love with teaching. “Those were two amazing years that I really enjoyed until disaster came and changed everyone’s life in New York City including mine,” she sadly reminisced.
9/11 and how her life changed
The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed America and many people, especially those who lived in New York City at the time. Among those people affected was Marion, who at that moment was at the top of her professional life. She was a college lecturer, corporate office manager for a high-end advertising agency, columnist at several ethnic newspapers and magazines, fundraiser for Liz Holtzman’s comptroller and senate campaigns; later, community activist for her district in Queens, and was a marketing executive that secured major brand sponsorships for community organizations in the music and entertainment industries.
“After the attacks on the World Trade Center, I developed a phobia of going to Manhattan, of riding the subway, crossing the bridges; everything was chaos and the sensation of panic and fear was devastating,” said Marion. Her post-traumatic stress was strong enough to make her change her life, so she decided to leave everything behind.
Marion decided to retreat to Queens and opened a restaurant with the idea of building a Caribbean brand of restaurants and sell franchises to people who wanted to be operators. “That was my thought; however, I got trapped into operating instead of selling even one franchise,” she says. After working 15 hours a day in a kitchen, cooking and serving food for about four years, Marion needed to get back to some semblance of her academic and professional training. It was time to leave that period of her life behind, start over and move to a new vista where she could be Marion again.
Back to her territory: Education
As the leader she is, she turned a crisis into an opportunity and went back to what she knew and was good at: moved to Florida and found a way back to education, where she belonged. She was hired as adjunct faculty, and later dean, for a large vocational school. In a few years, she also became a director of student affairs at several local colleges and universities, an Associate Director of Student Professional Development at Caribbean School of Medicine—all while working as an online professor at the largest U.S. online university. It was during this time that Marion started her second master’s degree in higher education administration.
As dynamic as such a life appears, Marion’s purpose in life was not yet achieved; thus, she decided to link her entrepreneurial spirit with her passion for education, teamed up with an irreplaceable like-minded colleague and opened Piberry Institute, a vocational school where students could get the training needed to quickly enter the workforce upon graduation.
Marion smiles as she ponders and reveals, “The duality of Audrey Cohen College, God’s destiny for my life, and my past experiences perfectly prepared me for the new endeavor giving me the opportunity to find myself and reach my full potential. I wanted to start a school such as ACC—for women, migrants, and the underserved—part of our inspiration to start PiBerry Institute.”
PiBerry Institute launched in 2010, and although it was one of the toughest endeavors she had ever undertaken, a strong partnership and family support enabled Marion to overcome one challenge after the next with bringing PBI to where it is today. To ensure an ability of fiscal responsibility, Marion even pursued a third master’s degree in accounting and financial management during that time.
Piberry Institute (PBI) offers technical degrees in the health-care industry as the medical field has a strong job outlook, is hands-on oriented and is where students can get their training quickly. For instance, programs like Medical Assisting, Practical Nursing, Medical Billing and Coding, and Home Health Aid allow students to get their diplomas in as little as three weeks to fifteen months and pursue certifications in Phlebotomy, Electrocardiography or Certified Medical Assistant, thus increasing their competitiveness for qualified jobs in the industry.
PiBerry Institute has achieved important goals in its lifetime; it became licensed by the Commission for Independent Education, is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education, approved by the Florida Department of Health Board of Nursing, participates in the Student Exchange and Visitor program, and is approved by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as for veterans training. In two years, she and her partner plan to launch other programs in the medical and business fields.
“At this point of life, our intention is not only about money; it is about the opportunity we are providing for our brave and courageous students, who like me, are probably the first generation in their families to attend college. They can make a living for themselves and their families while feeling good about their achievements because they are gainfully employed, helping others as so many selfless healthcare providers do,” Marion proudly said.
Marion wants to make sure she keeps touching students’ lives. Her purpose remains the same: to always be able to look students in their eyes, to mentor and to lead by example that everything is possible. Marion and her staff are committed to knowing what students’ needs are and helping them to believe in themselves to achieve their goals.
Haz clic para leer en Español: Marion Carberry, de Jamaica a Nueva York y Florida en busca de su pasión