First-Generation College Students Mentoring: Scene

New York Needs You
Paul Olivier, a senior at City College who plans to work in banking, then enroll in military service, then pursue a career in corporate law, and Christian Sarmiento, a senior at Baruch College who has accepted a job at Morgan Stanley. Both had two-year mentoring through their sophomore and junior years as fellows of New York Needs You. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

With his well-worn serious expression and preternatural calm, Ray McGuire, Citigroup Inc. global head of corporate and investment banking, quoted the rap song “3 Kings”: “We started out mopping floors. And now we front row at the awards.”

They were fitting words as he accepted an award at the New York Needs You benefit last night at Cipriani 42nd Street. The organization pairs first-generation college students, many of whom maintain minimum-wage jobs to help pay for school, with young professionals for two years of intensive mentoring.

Take Damien Hooper-Campbell, who works at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Jeff McClellan, a student at Baruch College.

When McClellan’s apartment building burned down last spring, Hooper-Campbell took him in and helped him find dorm housing. He also coached him through interview questions and resume writing. And he introduced him to the clothier Charles Tyrwhitt, where he bought business attire with his New York Needs You stipend.

The salesman taught him how to tie a half-windsor.

“He knows better than I do,” Hooper-Campbell said of McClellan, who had an internship at Goldman Sachs over the summer.

McGuire is a dedicated mentor too. “I find it important to respond to every e-mail and phone call,” McGuire said as waiters in white jackets passed out Bellinis. “I share my experiences and I give whatever advice I can. I want to push people to excellence so they can compete. It’s a harsh world we live in.”

Cold E-Mail

Twelve years ago McGuire replied to a cold e-mail from a college student, Robert Reffkin.

“He just reached out, I thought it was a thoughtful note,” McGuire said.

His pushing helped lead Reffkin to his current post as chief of staff to the president of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn. Reffkin has also run 49 marathons in 49 states since December 2007, to raise $1 million for the nonprofits that helped him in his youth.

Four years ago Reffkin founded New York Needs You “to institutionalize what Ray does,” Reffkin said.

The organization plans to go national, and this fall started a mentoring program in New Jersey, increasing its budget to $3.2 million from $2.6 million.

Onstage, as 625 guests ate vegetable lasagna and sea bass, McGuire cited Proverbs: “He who rules his spirit is more powerful than he who takes a city.”

Inner City

He told his own story, of growing up in the inner city raised by a single mother.

“No play dates,” McGuire recounted.

He earned three degrees at Harvard and after a 28-year career, said that “there are only 5 to 10 professionals who do what he does and only one of them happens to be black.”

He ended with a benediction.

“May grace and peace cover you with joy,” he said.

He then returned to his seat, joining his wife, Crystal McCrary, who is seven months’ pregnant with a boy.

Reffkin too is approaching happy milestones. He’s running his 50th marathon in New York on Nov. 4, completing his “Running to Support Young Dreams” challenge.

Vera Wang

And on Nov. 10 he will be married to Benis Reyes, who works in private-wealth management at Goldman. The couple met at a gala for the Council of Urban Professionals. Reyes said she’ll wear Vera Wang to the wedding, which will be held at the Scarsdale Woman’s Club in the Westchester suburb of Scarsdale, New York.

During dessert -- heaps of strawberries and cream and lemon meringue cake fit for a family celebration -- silent-auction items were on offer. Daniel Malone of Barclays Plc’s investment-banking unit bid on a “full suit” by Bonobos valued at $1,000. Lesley Schulhof, wearing Oscar de la Renta, bid $900 on one of his dresses.

Dinner chairmen including Andrew Marks of Blue Ridge Capital LLC and Ben Tisch of Loews Corp. helped the gala raise $1.7 million.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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