Approximately 25 to 50 percent of students are uncertain about a career choice at the beginning of their college journey. Zachary D. Premo of Brownville, NY was no different, but his story stands out. Why? While it takes most students a bit to adjust to college life, with all the new decisions and activities that come with it, Zach found his niche and began building a strong foundation for future success during his first year at Jefferson. He participated in two pilot internship programs where he met his current employer (more on that a little later in the story), took office as treasurer of the JCC School of Business, Leadership and Career Skills Club and president of the JCC Iota Eta chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma National Business Honor Society, and served as student representative on the JCC Business Advisory Board. Zach was highly involved in the college experience, and his journey was just beginning.
It started in fall 2021 when Zach enrolled at JCC with a TBD (to be determined) career path, uncertain career objectives and doubt that the college experience would be enjoyable. He chose Jefferson with the encouragement of his criminal justice high school teachers at Jeff-Lewis BOCES and with continuing momentum, matriculated in the criminal justice degree program. That aside, he says, “I figured I’d stay here where I have my job, friends and family, and still get a quality education at a great price.”
Ultimately, Zach was seeking a career that inspired passion. He says he wanted to lead his life by the expression, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While Zach’s interest in criminal justice was alive, it fell short of reaching his goal. Working through his uncertainties, he explored other areas of interest, entrepreneurship being one of them. He enrolled in a business marketing course taught by Dawn Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair, School of Business, Hospitality & Tourism, which consequently changed the trajectory of his life.
“Ever since I took the marketing course with Dawn Robinson I have had this unbelievable passion for marketing,” said Zach. “I switched to the business program in hopes that I would find what I love. When I realized what I wanted to do, I knew without a doubt, it was the right decision.” Discovering his vocation, Zach says, “It doesn’t matter what business it is, I want to run it, own it and I want it to be mine.” Zach changed his major to business and enrolled in JCC’s jointly registered business administration program with SUNY Potsdam, whereby upon completion, students receive their associate and bachelor’s degrees.
Robinson, says “Zach leans into the opportunities his program and the Jefferson community have for him.” Zach participated in two School of Business, Hospitality and Tourism pilot internships, one at the New York Small Business Development Center, and another at the Greater Watertown North Country (GWNC) Chamber of Commerce. Through these experiences, he learned the value of networking and wanted to practice the skill and look the part. He was introduced to the JCC Cannon Threads Closet that offers free, gently used professional apparel for students. Zach acquired a full suit to wear to the GWNC Chamber’s “Business After Hours” event, where he connected with Zach Yelle and Kelvin McNeally, co- founders/owners of Runningboards Marketing. “Thanks to Cannon Threads, I felt so much more confident walking up to these business owners.” Interest sparked as he learned about Runningboards, a modern advertising company that offers prolific growth opportunities. When a sales position opened, Zach applied at once. Yelle said, “Zach’s passion for the business really set him apart from the other candidates. He cares about our product and sees the benefits and why local businesses should utilize Runningboards to stand out from the competition.”
Runningboards, founded in 2018, is a digital mobile billboard business with three trucks operating locally, 17 franchises and 27 trucks in business along the East Coast as far south as Florida and as far west as Texas. Yelle says getting a college degree will “help Zach build confidence and enter the field with beneficial business acumen.” Robinson adds, “A business degree from Jefferson prepares students to thrive in any industry where they can have a positive influence on the culture of an organization and gain expertise in leadership communication and entrepreneurial spirit.”
“Contrary to what I thought, I was surprised by the opportunities like the one I found!”- Zachary Premo
Zach said he never thought his college experience at Jefferson would lead to so many opportunities. He anticipates graduating debt-free from Jefferson in May 2023 and is happy to report he got the job at Runningboards.
He says, “If you put forth the effort, the opportunities will come to you, hand in hand. I really learned at JCC the unlimited potential I have when I work hard.”