Hefgine G. Fils-Aime receives Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration award

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The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is pleased to announce that Hefgine G. Fils-Aime, a spring 2011 graduate of the University of South Florida, has been awarded the Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration award. The award, sponsored by the AICPA, is bestowed on a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and has demonstrated an unusually high level of success despite adversity. The award includes a $5,000 cash stipend, which Fils-Aime plans to use to help her pursue a master's of science degree in accountancy at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Fils-Aime's story is one of overcoming persistent obstacles. Her life changed in the mid-2000s when her parents, fearful that their two young daughters would become victims of Haiti's terrorist kidnappings, sent them to Florida to reside with relatives. Fils-Aime, a native speaker of French and Creole, was obliged to learn English immediately. She was only fourteen, but her high school enrolled her as a junior because she skipped a grade in Haiti and because of differences between the Haitian and U.S. school systems. She had to take Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test to bring her up to date with her class level, and she passed the English exams. Fils-Aime graduated high school at sixteen and enrolled in the University of South Florida.

When she faced peer pressure exerted by eighteen-year-olds living with her in the dorms, she chose to remain focused on her education. Her biggest challenge came on January 10, 2010, when Haiti was hit with a 7.0 earthquake. Days went by before she learned the fate of her parents and younger brother; her mother had perished when their home collapsed. Due to the damage in Port-au-Prince, she was unable to attend her mother's funeral. Despite her pain, she continued her education and extracurricular activities, which included serving as Student Project Support Assistant in the Business Systems Reengineering department, a candidate for Beta Alpha Psi, and the Brother Points Coordinator for Alpha Kappa Psi. PricewaterhouseCoopers selected her to attend its Florida Leadership Adventure in the summer of 2010.

"The winner of this year's Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration award, Hefgine G. Fils-Aime, is a shining example of a person who overcame extreme hardship and a language barrier in a foreign country to achieve success", said Jeannie Patton, the AICPA's vice president of academic and career awareness. "Her dedication, motivation, and courage to continue offer inspiration and hope to every one of us who has thought about quitting when the going got tough."

Heather Collins, AICPA Director, Academic and Career Awareness, presented the award August 12 at Beta Alpha Psi's annual meeting in Denver.

"Hefgine Fils-Aime's life story is an inspiring one for everyone who is part of Beta Alpha Psi", said Mary Stone, President, Beta Alpha Psi. "For members, it is a story to remember when life seems overwhelming or unfair. For faculty advisors, forum members, and staff, it is a story to remember when confronted by the media stereotype that today's students don't work hard. For all of us, it is reminder that great challenges can be overcome with hard work, perseverance, and good humor."

In May 2011, Fils-Aime graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting with an overall GPA of 3.89. She was recognized by the College of Business' 25 Under 25 program and was active in Beta Alpha Psi, Alpha Kappa Psi, and Beta Gamma Sigma. She received a full-time job offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Beta Alpha Psi is an honorary organization for financial information students and professionals. Its primary objective is to encourage and recognize scholastic and professional excellence in the business information field.

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