Kelley senior shares keys to success and why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help
As the oldest of six kids, William Cardona, BS’24, was a self-described undisciplined teenager trying to find his way after high school. His story is one of academic achievement, but also perseverance, mentorship, and the impact of giving back to the community.
As a first-generation American whose parents worked in factories in Logansport, Indiana, William knew he wanted more than what his rural town could offer. His connection to a military recruiter and a high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test led him to a prestigious job: 13J Fire Control Specialist in the National Guard.
He chose the National Guard thanks to an influential recruiter, who became a mentor, guiding him both physically and mentally.
“He genuinely cared, reassured, supported, and prepared me for active duty beyond the physical test requirements,” William said. “He prepared me mentally by explaining the process to enlist makes you a better professional and provides lessons for the rest of your life. He set me up for a strong leadership mentality.”
In 2018, Specialist Cardona began his military training with six months of outdoor exercises and drills in rural Oklahoma, where he excelled despite enduring harsh conditions. During the last five years with his unit, he met another solider who encouraged him to pursue a college degree, specifically accounting.
“Coming from a family where higher education wasn’t the norm, I had to navigate college decisions on my own, but my family did everything they could to provide me with growth opportunities and exposure to things that would later help me at Kelley,” William said. “For example, I helped my family manage their taxes and finances from real estate investments, which helped me build financial literacy early.”
After initially enrolling at IU Kokomo, William transferred to IU Indianapolis because he wanted to join the Kelley School of Business. William is a senior majoring in accounting, finance, and supply chain management and plans to become a CPA.
The transfer process was challenging, but William says Kelley Indianapolis advisors supported him the entire way. They outlined the curriculum, majors to consider, needing to complete I-Core, and how to earn the necessary 150 for the CPA licensure. William also took a career and development class to gain soft skills and hone his presentation and interview capabilities. William credits this course with helping him land every opportunity he pursued.
“Everyone at Kelley Indianapolis took their jobs seriously as they guided me, and they genuinely wanted me to achieve my goals,” William said. “Kelley faculty care, and they get to know their students and provide us with industry expertise. I have never seen so much love and engagement from a school.”
William aspires to own his business in the future. While the Venture Creation Certificate wasn’t available in time for him to participate, he joined the Entrepreneurship Club to gain greater insight into being his own boss and running a successful small business. Faculty advisor Barb Cutillo and club president Kayla Lemons offered advice and encouragement. They also introduced him to local leaders who shared experiences of opening their own businesses.
Through these personal connections, William gained new confidence, refined his soft skills, and developed a desire to mentor others.
“With encouragement from Derrick Williams, associate director of diversity initiatives at Kelley Indianapolis, I became a peer learning coach, which is a new opportunity funded by the Indiana Latino Institute (ILI),” William said. “I now have the platform to help other students get started and provide advice that gives them an advantage. I encountered a lot to get here, and I want to offer a personal touch and guidance from that perspective.”
William works with three peer learning mentees, and he knows each one personally, helping with self-confidence and providing support and encouragement. For instance, he encouraged them (and attended himself to show support) to attend a networking event where students practiced networking skills with professionals from well-known Indianapolis-based companies. William also benefited from the event by making several connections, including one at Simon Property Group, where he has accepted a job following graduation.
“William is a great student and makes a difference in the lives of others,” said Derrick. “William has proven in one semester that he is a valuable mentor, coach, and tutor for Kelley Indianapolis students. He’s exactly role model we are looking for!”
William’s connection to the Indiana Latino Institute also led to a spring internship with IU Health’s financial analytics department.
“The Indiana Latino Institute helped me connect with IU Health’s accounting and finance managers, who were excited to learn more about me and why I wanted to join their organization,” William said. “I’m grateful the ILI sought out a partner to provide me with an opportunity that will give me insight and experience in the healthcare system.”
William’s journey to Kelley Indianapolis and discovery of his passion for accounting started with a mentor, his ability to ask for help, and his own perseverance. He encourages other students to pursue their dreams, never give up, and build relationships. His experience stands as an inspiration for those facing uncertainty, showcasing that with determination and the right support, success is within reach.