Berkeley Today Stories

Heather Bell, Berkeley College graduate

Berkeley College’s Professional Environment Prepares Graduate for Growing Managerial Career at YMCA



“Berkeley College is structured in a manner that requires students to be responsible in order to succeed,” said Heather Bell regarding taking classes at Berkeley College in White Plains, NY. “The focus is on your education and career.” Ms. Bell credits her time at Berkeley College and its professional environment with preparing her for a growing management career at the YMCA.

A resident of Fishkill, NY, Ms. Bell earned an A.A.S. in Business Administration – Customer Relations from Berkeley College in 1989. She also earned a B.A.S. degree in Organizational & Human Resources Management from Nyack College in 2000. Ms. Bell worked in various organization managerial roles at companies like Portaga Inc. in White Plains and Computer Task Group in Poughkeepsie, NY. She was a Corporate Relations Specialist for Heineken USA, where she was responsible maintaining the international brewer’s relations with communities and organizations in the Northeast region.

Ms. Bell was running her own event planning service, A Perfect Plan, when a former associate from Berkeley College reached out to her in 2014 about an opening at the YMCA in White Plains. Today, as Associate Executive Director there, she oversees operations and staffing of the facility, focusing primarily on membership, aquatics and fitness. While her passion has been re-directed to her work at the YMCA, she continues to coordinate weddings through A Perfect Plan, which Westchester Magazine recognized among its Best of Westchester 2014 honorees and Wedding Wire awarded the Client’s Choice Award in 2014 and 2016.

Ms. Bell credits her time working as a student aide in the Berkeley College Admissions Office with teaching her valuable lessons about sales and the education system, skills she has been able to apply to situations at the YMCA. “Because of these experiences, I am prepared to help young adults find means of paying for their education as well,” she said.

Up Close with Heather Bell

What does success mean to you?
What defines success to me is having a passion for your work and being able to help others. It is about knowing that I was able to help a family join the Y and begin a healthy lifestyle, or work with a teen who needed some self-esteem boosting. Perhaps on the back-end, it’s also about adjusting the budget so a program can continue to run, or knowing that we were able to recognize a member of our staff family for their loyalty and dedication.

What initially inspired you to enroll in Berkeley College?
It was a combination of things. I had a couple of cousins who had attended Berkeley College and I looked up to them. It was close to home, so I could reside in the dorms on campus, but still go home when I wanted to. I was also inspired by the fast-paced curriculum, and loved that I could take classes needed for what I was intending to pursue.

How did Berkeley College prepare you for success?
The environment at Berkeley College was by far more mature than the one many of my peers were exposed to at other colleges. It was structured in such a manner that you had to be responsible in order to be successful. The focus was on your education and career.

In which way(s) do you see yourself being successful in the future?
The YMCA is an organization that can take me to many different places internationally should I so choose. For now, I look forward to continuing to work with the inspirational team of leadership professionals, serving a community that does not turn anyone away for financial reasons, and ensures that we promote healthy living, youth development and social responsibility.

What advice would you offer today’s college-bound students?
Look for a college or career school that will offer you what you are inspired by, not just to say that you have a degree. Speak to someone in the field you think you’re interested in and ask them: What did it take for you to get where you are? How long did it take? How difficult is it to become successful in your field, and what is your definition of success? It seems everyone wants to be a graphic designer until they find out what is really entailed in the process and how broad the field is.

What was your most memorable moment at Berkeley College?
My time at Berkeley was certainly memorable for many reasons and not just one specific event. It was a time for me to be a responsible adult, realizing that I was not only obtaining an education, but that I was working to pay for that education. I valued everything that I learned and all of the experiences that I was able to take away. I do believe that I took full advantage of my time at Berkeley and look back not wanting to rewrite the story – not one chapter at all.