High School Students Find Accounting Has Strong Appeal

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A high school internship program has exploded some myths about accounting while encouraging more Albany-area minorities to consider a career in the field.

Jihad Ramdene, 18, will start at the state University at Albany as a business major in the fall, much to his own surprise. Ramdene graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in Albany and had not considered "uncool" accounting until he took part in the "Career Opportunities in Accounting Program" run by the New York State Society of CPAs, the Albany Business Review reported.

The five-day program held at the College of Saint Rose showed Ramdene and six other high school students the range of careers possible with an accounting or business degree. The goal of the program is to generate more interest in accounting by minority students by placing the students in summer internships at area firms.

Saryia Rodriguez, marketing and sales associate for CPA Journal, the society's publication, was the students' mentor during the program. She feels accounting firms are not actively seeking minority employees.

"Certain groups are under-represented in the field and we want to change that," she said.

The percentage of bachelor's degrees in accounting granted to black, Asian and Hispanic students at New York state colleges dropped from 16 percent to 12 percent from 1997 to 2002, according to the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.

David Johnson, an accountant with DeChants Fuglein & Johnson LLP in Latham, said it's time students found out the field isn't a bunch of "bean counters."

The students in the program agree that their friends don't consider accounting, mainly because of its reputation as a boring field. But now, those same friends regret that they didn't apply for the internship program.

Intern Toni Thompson, 17, wants to earn her CPA certification. She has an internship with the chief financial officer at Albany International Airport.

Jihad's sister, Khaliah Ramdene, 17, shifted her career interests from journalism to business after the program. She now interns at local firm DeChants Fuglein.

To Rodriguez, these students are good examples for other minorities. "We want to show them it can be done," she said. "We want to show them how to get along in this business world."

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