Academy exposes students to accounting

January 11, 2010
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BDO Seidman, Grand Valley State University and Junior Achievement have combined forces to develop a new accounting-focused program for students from high school classrooms through college scholarships.

“We have many professionals in our office who have participated with Junior Achievement over the past decade or so,” said Matt Becker, tax partner at BDO Seidman, which is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its debut in Grand Rapids. “We just wanted to formalize what we were doing with them and organize it.”

The program is available to high school students throughout West Michigan, according to Bill Coderre, president of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, a nonprofit with an annual budget of $1.5 million that provides lessons on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship in classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Coderre said that, for many students, having a role model provides a spark of interest and motivation, and enables them to explore a career option “that either they weren’t thinking of, or were thinking of but wanted to know more about it in order to make a decision.”

Highlights of the BDO Academy, announced last month, include:

In the Reverse Job Shadow program, some of BDO Seidman’s 280 staff members in Grand Rapids will volunteer to visit high school classrooms where math, accounting and technology programs are taught, with those three topics providing the basic building blocks for today’s business skills.

Students who join the BDO Academy will spend several half-days at BDO Seidman’s downtown Grand Rapids office. There they will have the opportunity to interact with more staff members and learn about the company’s assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services for clients, and how that relates to their studies.

BDO Academy students will have the opportunity to audit GVSU business and accounting classes in the Seidman College of Business.

Students’ cost of participating in academy activities will be covered, including program materials, meals and transportation.

The academy’s graduates also will be eligible for a new scholarship, called Seidman Scholars, which is being funded at GVSU by the accounting firm. Becker was uncertain about the level of the company’s financial commitment to the scholarship program, but said it is intended to honor the late Bill Seidman, whose father founded the accounting firm and who worked there and then went on to a distinguished business career on the national stage. Seidman also was instrumental in the creation of GVSU.

Becker said scholarship recipients would be chosen based on their participation in the academy and extraordinary work in academics and personal achievement.

“Michigan’s business community, educators and public officials agree that we must continue to bolster the professional services sector and find innovative ways to keep more young people focused on the educational and career opportunities available here at home,” Seidman College of Business Dean James Williams said in a written statement. “BDO Seidman is taking an admirable approach to this challenge, and we look forward to participating in this effort.”

JA would provide training for BDO staff volunteers who participate in the program, Coderre added. He said the program is an opportunity for JA to continue its connection to high school students in an era when the state’s new graduation requirements are expected to reduce the number of school hours available for elective education.

“One of our critical concerns is that with changes in the Michigan education requirements, there will be less opportunities  for students to take courses like accounting and information technology because of the new graduation requirements that go into place next year,” Coderre said.

For more information, high school administrators and educators may contact Trisha Keselring at BDO Seidman by sending e-mail to tkeselring@bdo.com

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