High school students explore accounting careers at MassCPAs summer program

A group of 25 high school students traveled from across Massachusetts to attend the Accounting Careers Exploratory Leadership event organized by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs.

Between July 25-29, ACE students participated in panel discussions, guest lectures, field trips and other exercises coordinated by accounting and business professionals to learn how to succeed in the industry.

Created in 2017, ACE is a free nonresidency program for high schoolers from underrepresented backgrounds who wish to learn more about business and accounting. According to the organization’s website, the program strives to “diversify and grow the accounting pipeline in Massachusetts” by raising awareness among high school students when it comes to career paths. In 2020, MassCPAs joined 29 other business groups to fight systemic racism and discrimination across the state.

“You can see a gap between diversity in enrollment and diversity in employment,” observed Zachary Donah, senior director of advocacy for MassCPAs. “When we do surveys, we realize that young teens want to provide the best services for their clients, and it often works by introducing new backgrounds or perspectives to the office.”

Participants in the MassCPAs Accounting Careers Exploratory Leadership event

During the event, students took part in mock interview sessions, received $100 Macy’s gift cards to purchase professional outfits at the store, and networked with ACE sponsors such as accounting firms BDO USA, Deloitte and Grant Thornton. They also attended a presentation led by Timothy Zue, CFO of the Boston Red Sox, after a tour of Fenway Park.

“It was incredibly exciting to meet him and learn how accounting was affecting his job, and almost every other financial field,” said Andover student Christina Ahn, 14. “I used to think of accounting as a very boring desk job, but I got to meet actual accountants and talk to a lot of people. I had no idea there were so many other students who were interested in the field!”

But the highlight of the program remained the week-long case study competition, which was evaluated by judges from BDO, Grant Thornton and an ACE past participant. The winners were Steven Chen, a junior from North Quincy High School, Harrison Georgiadis, a senior from Newton North High School and Olivia Li, a sophomore from Westwood High School, who each received a $100 Visa gift card and MassCPAs swag.

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(Left to right): Olivia Li, Harrison Georgiadis and Steven Chen at the MassCPAs ACE event

Sean Crevier, 46, created the case study and offered introductory accounting courses to students earlier this week. Crevier has been teaching finance and accounting in high school for 23 years. The veteran educator believes schools need to change their approach when it comes to accounting. He sees financial statements as storytelling, or a particular moment in time that explains how a company got where it is.

However, Crevier deplores the fact that most accounting curricula focus on debits and credits or bookkeeping, when the profession truly relies on analysis, team-building and communication.

“Financial literacy brings value to an economy, a company and a household,” said Crevier. “As a team, we interpret numbers and columns to understand what they say about a company, and we use these stories to fill in the blanks in society and make better financial decisions.”

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A visit to the Deloitte offices by students

ACE allows its participants to apply for a renewable scholarship that can offer up to $10,000 during their academic journey, or obtain a high school student membership at MassCPAs, which counts more than 11,000 members across the country. The organization offers two college and career readiness programs — ACE being one of them — and regularly provides resources, events, scholarships and conferences for aspiring accountants in Massachusetts.

“MassCPAs has a long history of supporting students pursuing accounting degrees, and our ACE program allows students to be fully immersed in all that a career in accounting has to offer,” said Amy Pitter, president and CEO of MassCPAs.”We are so proud of our ACE students and look forward to seeing them progress in the profession.”

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