From application process to scholarships: Staten Island business helps students navigate system of higher education

STATEN ISLAND, New York – When Dr. Janet Leslie was finishing her dissertation, she was overwhelmed with research and dread the long and arduous process of compiling over 100 pages of work. Leslie, a first-generation college graduate who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Brooklyn College before earning a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College, hit a stumbling block when she navigated the latter part of her education — a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Maryland Global College.

“All along the way I had countless mentors who helped me, supported me, and prayed for me, but when I got to this point, I remember wishing for a network of wisdom—someone who could guide me on this last path of my journey,” Leslie said.

So, after three decades of working as a senior administrator at the City University of New York (CUNY), I decided to mentor non-traditional students and students of color working toward a higher education degree.

Road to class

said Leslie, who served as an assistant professor at Kingsborough Community College and worked as a coordinator at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. “I personally identified the scholarships and skills needed to complete each of my three baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. I wanted to pass on that knowledge to others who need it most.”

In 2019, she founded The Gift of Experience, a limited liability company that provides educational advisory services to those pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. By guiding students through the college application process, matching candidates with scholarships and providing tutoring and thesis review, the service also specializes in career interpretation and transition—helping aspiring entrepreneurs set up business and marketing.

“I believe that a graduate degree can be one of a series of important steps toward a person’s ultimate life goals, and as an entrepreneur, I understand the need to invest in individuals who can serve as effective leaders in both private and public spaces,” Leslie said. “The gift of experience is about turning passion into a career and projects into profit.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of two hard-working Caribbean immigrants who believed their children should have every educational advantage available, Leslie took the bus from Ocean Hill Brownsville to Marine Park daily to attend school as a child.

“This was from the early to mid-1960s, and there were only three kids in the whole school who looked like me,” Leslie said. “But my parents wanted the best for us. They set us on a path that helped us move forward academically, and they prayed for us every step of the way.”

great inspiration

Leslie, her father, a real estate agent who built his company from the ground up and eventually owned seven homes, said her parents were a major inspiration in her entrepreneurial endeavours.

“Now in the rearview mirror I can see why they felt strong to push us forward, even though it was a very daunting task,” said Leslie. “They were getting through a lot of social restrictions, but they maintained a strong presence the whole time.”

Residing in West Brighton for over two decades, Leslie is the mother of twin sons, who are now growing up and building jobs and families of their own. Inspired by their educational endeavors and her own journey, she defines her current motive as “helping learners at every stage of the chain.”

“That’s what drives my business,” she said.

Offering five structured counseling packages, Leslie’s services range from general counseling to more detailed counseling and academic support. Recently accredited as a Minority and Women’s Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Leslie also works with other qualified applicants to streamline formal certifications.

“A new piece of Experience Gift helps other M/WBE companies learn how to navigate RFP [Request for Proposals] system and became a competitor to New York City and New York State contracts,” Leslie said.

gain confidence

Leslie’s services have already proven successful for a number of students.

“Dr. Leslie has helped me narrow the focus of my career by teaching me how to think with my end goal in mind,” noted Bree Davis, a recent intern. “By changing my mindset, I was confident enough to change career paths and progress to a graduate degree program.”

Stacey Payton, a graduate intern whom Leslie helped get a variety scholarship, said she agrees.

“Her advice, encouragement, and willingness to listen and provide support are among the many traits she readily gives to her students,” Payton said. “She gives herself unconditionally and makes it her business to understand that all of our individual needs are being met accordingly.”

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