The Society launched the INCPAS Scholars program in 2011 in an effort to recruit high potential minority students into the CPA profession. This yearlong career awareness and mentoring program for high school students interested in business and accounting has made a direct impact on 35 young people so far. Each month focuses on an important topic that will prepare the Scholars as they go on to college and begin their professional lives. They establish short and long term goals, are versed on the importance of business etiquette, and learn about making the most of their time in college.

INCPAS ScholarsGoing on our 18th month, we are beginning to see the fruits of our labor. While we won’t be able to ultimately gauge success for many years, we can report on incremental progress. One of the key elements to a successful mentorship program is consistency, so even after the Scholars “graduate” from the program, we keep them involved … highly involved. They maintain the relationships they’ve built with their mentors, Society staff and each other. They attend Scholars and Society events. College students serve as mini-mentors (a.k.a. buddies) to current Scholars.

In our first year, all of the graduating seniors chose accounting as their major and remained in Indiana for college. Not bad. How did they fair in their first semester of college you might ask? Amazingly! They love their business classes. And they are getting involved on campus and are seeking out leadership opportunities (as freshmen!).

Just the other day, I sent a text to a Scholar at IU Bloomington and asked, “How’s the semester going?” She responded with details on her classes … “Business classes hard, but not bad. Getting involved on campus, participating in three Kelley School of Business clubs.” And here is the best part … she says, “I’m constantly making connections!” Making and maintaining relationships is a huge part of the Scholars program.

So what about the Scholars that are still in high school? For 20 of our current Scholars & alumni, now is the time for college decisions to be made. Some have already committed to Indiana schools, with plans to study accounting. Others anxiously await letters of acceptance. They are seeking out summer internships and leadership programs. Many are competing in accounting-related events at the Business Professionals of America and DECA state tournaments. One student even scored a 2250 on the SAT.

What impresses me the most and inspires me on a daily basis is seeing all of the lessons of the program come together for the Scholars. From getting text messages or phone calls when they reach goals they set for themselves early in the program, to receiving requests for letters of recommendation to incredible leadership programs, I feel the impact of the program every day.

So while we have a few years before these Scholars (hopefully) enter the CPA profession, we can watch these incredible students develop into successful, thoughtful and intelligent young people and continue to offer support and guidance as they progress through college. What are your thoughts on the Scholars program or other INCPAS diversity programs?