By Deanna C. White
For the past twenty-two years, CPAs from the Houston CPA Society, a chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs, have been a consistent presence in Houston-area schools, dedicating their time and resources through the society's CPAs Helping Schools program to ensure every child in their community has access to a quality education.
This fall, CPAs Helping Schools continued that long-standing tradition when the Houston CPA Society awarded $6,282 in grant money to six Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District campuses to purchase library books, textbooks, and digital equipment; fund an after-school orchestra program; and enhance a daily reading program.
The grants were awarded at the school district's October 4 Partners in Education Meeting at the Berry Center district headquarters in Cypress, Texas. The funding is just part of the grant money CPAs Helping Schools will donate to schools in the greater Houston area this school year.
In 2012 and 2013, CPAs Helping Schools gave almost $70,000 in grants to thirty-seven different educational programs, according to Frances St. Cyr, membership marketing manager for the Houston CPA Society.
Carol Spencer, Houston CPA Society member services coordinator said CPAs Helping Schools is dedicated to providing quality learning to all students, particularly at-risk students or those who need assistance with educational materials or special programs.
"CPAs Helping Schools is all about helping kids stay in school so they can go on to earn a college degree and have a positive future", Spencer said.
Established in 1991, CPAs Helping Schools is dedicated to improving the quality and scope of education from prekindergarten through grade twelve and provides a way for society members to support area schools.
The program provides financial grants to schools where it has been identified that there is little or no significant business partnership. Grant applications are accepted throughout the year and reviewed in October and April. Uniforms and books are collected to provide these necessary items to schools serving at-risk students.
CPAs Helping Schools also works closely with local school districts to provide one-time or ongoing support as requested.
Spencer said CPAs Helping Schools typically funds programs or provides resources that will "make the greatest impact on the largest student population over a long period of time." CPAs Helping Schools considers requests for grants in all subject matters as well as grants for uniforms, books, digital and electronic resources, transportation, and after-school programs, Spencer said.
Spencer said the Houston CPA Society encourages all its members to "do everything they can" to make a positive impact on education through CPAs Helping Schools by volunteering with the program – whether members want to serve as "principal for a day", volunteer in schools, or assist college-bound students with their FAFSA applications.
CPAs Helping Schools connects member volunteers with mentorship programs at local schools to meet one hour a week with students at the school, listen to their fears or problems, and provide encouragement. Volunteers also collect school supplies for at-risk students or donate office supplies and equipment to local schools. Several private schools also donate their gently worn uniforms to the society for distribution to schools, Spencer said.
The society also realizes, however, that not every CPA has the extra time to commit for an entire school year, so the CPAs Helping Schools Committee continues to initiate ways a society member can "help a school" with a minimal time requirement. Spencer said ideas include participating in local Junior Achievement or Skills for Living programs, giving presentations about a career in public accountancy, or speaking at local schools about financial literacy.
"We are always in need of volunteers and seek ways to engage our members in local education", Spencer said.
Paul Vanek, Houston CPA Society vice president and a member of CPAs Helping Schools, said financially strapped school districts have a definite need that outside assistance programs like the CPAs Helping Schools program are helping to fill.
"Teachers are trying to meet today's educational challenges with innovative programs that go beyond the traditional teaching tools and techniques", Vanek said. "I believe the CPAs Helping Schools program [provides] the desperately needed assistance to implement these programs."
Vanek said he has seen an incredible sense of appreciation on educators' faces when CPAs Helping Schools presents the educators with grants – and that appreciation, Vanek said, is about more than just the number on the check.
"There is always an expression of immense gratitude, not just for the money, but also because they know an organization in the community cares about education", Vanek said.
To learn more about the CPAs Helping Schools Program, visit the Houston Society of CPAs website.