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High schoolers consider accounting careers at 20th World of Accounting event

Not so many years ago, Amanda Colon was a high school student who was comfortable handling figures and knew her way around a spread sheet. But she hadn’t decided on a path toward a career yet.

Colon’s accounting class in high school visited the World of Accounting, an event organized each year by the Rochester chapter of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants to encourage young people to consider a career in accounting.

“My experience was … ‘I’m good at numbers. I think I could do this. But do I want to sit at my desk all day?’” Colon recalled. The presentations at the seminar, however, showed her that while tax accountants do mainly stick to their desks, other kinds of accountants travel quite a bit to work with clients. That’s the kind of accountant she ended up being.

In July 2018, Colon became a staff accountant at Mengel Metzger Barr & Co., the accounting firm that has been a major sponsor of the World of Accounting for at least a decade. She’ll probably lead a tour of her office for a group of students attending the 20th anniversary World of Accounting event on Nov. 8 at the Five Star Plaza, the same building that houses her firm.

Jay Upadhyaya, who started working for Mengel Metzger Barr & Co. a few months ago, said attending the event when he was in high school persuaded him to pursue accounting as a profession, too. He learned how varied clients are who need accounting services, and, as a result, how varied the work of an accountant can be.

“You might not be doing the same thing every week,” he said of his work.

Both Colon and Upadhyaya attended Monroe Community College before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting – Colon at the College at Brockport and Upadhyaya at St. John Fisher College. Upadhyaya continued on to get an MBA at Fisher before joining MMB.

These two accountants and one other colleague at MMB all attended the World of Accounting seminar as high school students, according to Michelle Cain, a partner at MMB who is on the committee that organizes the annual event.

In the 20 years that World of Accounting has existed, some 2,500 to 3,000 high school students have participated with their schools.

“It opens their eyes to what they could do with an accounting degree,” Cain said. “I really see the value, too, of the students being able to speak with professionals. They’re normal human beings, and making a good living. The path they chose is working out with them.”

The event is free and includes lunch in the cafeteria at Five Star Plaza.  Each year between 150 and 250 local high school students attend.

“At present, they largely come from accounting classes,” said Harry Howe, an accounting professor at SUNY Geneseo who has been on the World of Accounting organizing committee for all 20 years.  “I think it would be terrific to have a broader section of students who never would have thought of accounting for a career,” he said.  Students need not be math geniuses to be accountants, he said. Organizational skills and love of a technical challenge are more important.

By the end of the World of Accounting event, students will have learned about various types of accounting – working in a firm that specializes in that field, working as the sole financial officer for a company in another line of business, public accounting, tax accounting, government accounting. Some accountants go on to become entrepreneurs.

“We’re really all about exposing students to a variety of careers in accounting,” Howe said. The students will tour MMB’s offices and get to see the view from the 10th floor of a downtown building, and they’ll get a chance to ask questions about college paths to the field.

While giving a tour last year, Colon led the group from her alma mater, brought by the same accounting teacher she had while in high school.

“It’s a great eye-opener for any high school student who doesn’t know what they want to do,” Colon said.

Howe added, “In any educational situation, it’s always very motivating to the students to see a real-world application. Hey, this isn’t something the teacher dreamed up. It’s something people actually use. It makes it easier for students to kind of imagine for themselves a career path.”

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