amNewYork profiles Baruch social entrepreneur, Tredesha Howard: Black History Month – Students who are shaping the future of NYC

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Tredesha HowardBeing “a citizen of the world” is cliché, but it’s hard to describe Tredesha Howard any other way.

A native of Barbados, she came to New York City in November 2014 “chasing” a retail job. She had experience selling cellular phones back home and figured it couldn’t be much different here. But the job didn’t work out, and she found herself faced with life in an unfamiliar country without her boyfriend, family and friends, who stayed back home.

“I left what I’d been accustomed to for 20 years of my life, so it was kind of hard to step away from it,” Howard says. “But my friends were very supportive. They know my personality. They said, ‘Tredesha, you’re going to get through it, just keep pushing through.’”

Push through she did.

Howard is now on track to graduate with a business degree from Baruch College. One of her minors, however, reveals something more about her.

Increasing financial literacy in minority communities is a priority for her, so she is learning Spanish.

“I know what it feels like to be excluded just because you don’t have that one thing. I don’t ever want to be in contact with someone where I’m the one to make them feel excluded because I couldn’t accommodate,” Howard says. “So many people in New York speak Spanish. I want to be able to help assist them as well.”

Did she speak any Spanish whatsoever when she declared the language as one of her minors?

“Nope!” Howard exclaims.

This fearlessness that drove her to New York City, that drove her to become fluent in a completely foreign language, is the same force that propelled her across the Atlantic Ocean last summer.

To Ghana.

“I find that we’re all told the story of slavery, but I knew there was something before slavery,” she says. “In the context of history, [American] slavery is a very brief period. Who were we as black people as a community before slavery? That was my personal search.”

Still, even on an intensely personal mission, she stayed on the lookout for opportunities to help others.

Shawn Best, associate director of CUNY’s Black Male Initiative, said throughout the planning process Howard constantly identified ways to help everyone involved — a hallmark of her career as a student.

“There were times when the director of the trip would look a little overwhelmed and she would say, ‘Hey, you know you have a team here who can help right?’” Best said. “She’s just an incredible person with an incredible background. She’s exceeded all of our expectations.”

That trip to Ghana, for Howard, returned the favor.

As she and half a dozen other students laid eyes on the Ghanaian “slave castles,” she connected with a newfound source of motivation.

“It was hard . . . It was very emotional. But it gave me hope to keep moving on, even though I’m fighting for things I may never experience. There’s hope for someone else coming after me, that they wouldn’t have the struggles that I’ve had,” Howard says.

Since returning, she and the other students have been working to establish a — tentatively titled — Birthright Africa Foundation, to help provide children in Ghana with school supplies and other fundamental childhood items.

And while she is hopeful her current internship at Morgan Stanley will turn into something long-term after graduation, she aspires to do even more to serve.

“To be honest with you, I’d do any service job that could help me gather the skills needed to grow as a person and a professional, and eventually run my own business,” Howard says. “That’s my real plan.”

In fact, she’s in the early stages of “test-running” some business ideas, but is sworn to secrecy — for now. Despite amNewYork’s best efforts to pry for details, she stood firm: “No hints.”