Student Summer Learning Session Goes Beyond the Classroom

Accounting is More Than Days at the Desk

By Jordan Wilkinson

On Thursday, June 7, Hudson Valley high schoolers gathered on the SUNY New Paltz campus for a congratulatory dinner celebrating the conclusion of their week-long participation in the COAP program. “Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession” (COAP) is a five day summer program that is offered at no cost to interested high school students considering degrees in the accounting field.

Sean Glander, chair of the COAP Advisory Board, stressed that while students learned the ins and outs of accounting, the program also provided them “with a toolbox.” In it, the staff of volunteers hoped to equip participants with life skills like proper resume building, networking, public speaking and even table etiquette for future business meals.

Many of the students were introduced to the program by guidance counselors (and later convinced by parents) while others went by the urging of fellow classmates. Some, like Michelle DeRiggi from Roy C. Ketchum High School, have envisioned a future in the business field since they were children.

The program is provided by the New York State Society of CPA's.The program is specifically designed to introduce next year's high school seniors about the many benefits of an accounting career, with the goal of adding diversity to the profession. Participants visit corporations and local accounting firms to learn more about the business world, and attend sessions conducted by professional accountants. Classes are held on 3 different college campuses; SUNY New Paltz, Mt. St. Mary College and Dutchess Community College.

Beth Vought is the manager at the regional accounting firm of Goldstein, Karlewicz and Goldstein, NYSSCPA board member and a program volunteer. She said, “We want to provide as much exposure to networking, interviewing, financial aid and college applications…the things they need to be thinking of.” She explained that the program recruiters seek out students from diverse ethnic backgrounds (as they are largely underrepresented in the accounting field) and those from first generation college families, though those are not mandatory.

To convince a group of 27 high school students to spend the beginning of their summers learning about accounting careers, the program had to be fast paced and multifaceted. The first activity the students participated in was called “Fraud and Forensics,” where they learned about the field of forensic accounting followed by a trip to the Mohonk Mountain House Resort to learn about hospitality accounting.

They also visited the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, NY. For duo Bethany Frank, self-proclaimed chemistry kid, and Khari Harris (both from Valley Central) this visit held a certain connection as they are co-presidents of their high school’s volunteer club. While they both aren’t set on futures in accounting, they did learn that opportunities to help others can come from unlikely professional paths.  (Bethany Frank shown at top)

There are 11 COAP programs in New York every summer and they are free to students and their families. Upon completion, students entering a four-year business program at an accredited college may be eligible to receive a scholarship. For more information on the program, visit NYSSCPA online.