Opportunity was a key word during a Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession session Wednesday morning at the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants office, voiced by distinguished students of the program and echoed by former New York Governor David Paterson in his guest speech.

In introducing Paterson to the room of 100 area high school students, in fact, NYSSCPA president-elect J. Michael Kirkland talked of taking advantage of Paterson’s offer to help during a recent breakfast meeting by nabbing him for that morning’s gig.

“Never let an opportunity go by,” Kirkland stressed.

Taking the podium, Paterson painted a more macro picture of the theme, telling the students, all enrolled in the 26-year-old program that aims to attract minorities into the profession, of the “immense opportunity” for CPAs in the current recession.

“I see kids in school that have trouble doing math, but you give them some money and they can do the math,” Paterson said. “There’s a difference between conduct and academia—they have anxiety. But in the real world, there are the same skills and traits learned in the classroom.”

That initial anxiety was clear in the words of that morning’s four distinguished speakers, each representing one of the COAP-partnered local schools: Adelphi University, Pace University, Long Island University and St. John’s University.

“I really thought accounting was about math and numbers,” said Julia Fan from Pace. “I even brought my calculator,” she added, to audience laughter.

In place of long division, the student speakers all mentioned, communication was stressed, especially in regard to networking and etiquette.


Kirkland touch on it in his opening talk, saying the ability to read, write and speak another language is “an absolute difference-maker,” that he does not see enough people including on their resumes as they’re now “competing against people all over the world.”

One language the students appeared to pick up after their five days of training and visiting accounting professionals in their offices was that of the business card.

Jennefe Adames of St. John’s University said it became a game among the program participants of who could collect the most.

Long Island University’s Dominique Tatum especially prized the card of Bert Mitchell, chairman and CEO of the largest minority-owned accounting firm in the U.S., Mitchell & Titus, whom students met with in the firm’s Manhattan headquarters.  

“It was a one in a lifetime experience,” she told her peers. “It was almost like meeting the president to me.”

Leticia Moya of Adelphi said she had scribbled down advice and personal goals in a notebook labeled “Dream Big,” over those five days, reviewing the pages every night.

Paterson, for his part, attempted to bring some of those CPA goals down to earth.


“People are almost intimidated by the profession,” he said. “But it’s like anything else; if you work hard enough…it’s not as difficult as you first thought.”

Paterson also advocated the morning’s emphasis on networking.

“People too much live in a bonded field, they don’t look beyond their backyard and the way they think matches,” he continued. “The more you interact with other people, the more you learn.”

The NYSSCPA hopes that communication goes beyond card stock—they urged the high school students to accept LinkedIn group invitations to stay in touch with the society throughout their educational careers.

More information on the COAP program is available here.