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Sleepy Hollow Senior Bakes Her Way to Success

Sleepy Hollow High School senior and second year culinary arts student Nicole Carmona is going to the CIA after graduation.

But it's a different sort of CIA.

Tarrytown resident Carmona, 18, will be studying baking, pastries and restaurant management at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Carmona said she has always had a passion for cooking.

“Since I was a little girl with my easy bake oven, I’ve always liked to cook and I’ve always liked to bake,” said Carmona, who currently studies at the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services .

Carmona said many people have questioned her decision to attend a culinary school after graduation, telling her that with her high grade point average she could become a lawyer or make a lot of money. She stuck with baking because of her godfather, who always told her to  “just go for it.”

“My godfather was always pushing me to follow my dreams and never discouraging me,” she said. “A lot of people said I’m really smart, I’m in AP honors classes, I have a 4.0… ‘Why are you going to bake? Anybody could bake.’”

Her godfather’s encouragement and Carmona’s passion has helped her excel. That success includes more than $20,000 in scholarships from various organizations, including Zeta Phi Beta, the Westchester Women’s Hall of Fame, Verizon, the Tarrytown Senior Award and the Culinary Institute of America.

“It’s a lot of money,” Carmona said. “The school’s a lot of money too.”

Carmona chose the Culinary Institute of America after applying to Johnson & Wales, Lincoln Tech, Delhi and a few other schools. The Institute was “the only one that really attracted me” after she visited them all. She didn’t think she would get in, though.

When she got her acceptance letter to Johnson & Wales, she figured she’d go there. Things changed when she got the Institute’s acceptance letter a week later.

“I knew that since I got in, I needed to go there, as much as I might be in debt till I’m 72,” she said.

Carmona likes to travel, so she’s considering working on a cruise line or at a resort after the Institute. But she said she also likes to help people, so she’s also considering teaching.

“I might go into teaching or owning my own restaurant, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “But for now, I think, once I finish, I just want to travel and do some cruises or hotels.”

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