Accounting camp gives high school students chance to 'feel' college, FSB

July 2018

Jay Murdock

Three teenagers sit at an auditorium desk, a pile of Legos in front of them. Behind them, three more students stand, giving instructions on how to build a rocking horse like the one clutched in one of their hands, a rocking horse the builders can’t see.

“It’s a skinny one, six across, like the one in your hand,” a girl says. “You stack it on top of the other.”

“Like this?” one of the builders asks. “No, no, no, it goes on the bottom,” the girl replies.

Welcome to Make It Miami Accounting Camp.

Aarian Lynn said that before she arrived, she had some ideas about what the camp would be like. “A lot of math work, honestly, like big math packets and calculators everywhere,” she recalled.

More than two dozen minority high school students from across Ohio spent three days at the Farmer School of Business for the yearly camp, also known as the Miami Accounting Program. They were invited to the camp based on recommendations from guidance counselors, and they attend for free thanks to sponsorships from major accounting firms.

“We’re giving high school students an opportunity to really taste and feel ‘What is college?’ and ‘What is the Farmer School experience?’ More importantly, what are the strategies that they will need to be successful in a college setting?” Farmer School Director of Student Organizations & Diversity Michelle Thomas explained.

Instead of learning how to better use a calculator, the students learned about the ACT and college essays, took part in an adventure challenge race, heard advice from a partner of a major accounting firm, talked with accounting interns, practiced proper business dining etiquette, made a presentation in front of their parents about what they learned, and, of course, played with Legos.

PricewaterhouseCoopers campus talent ID manager Leanne Wiley was behind the Lego exercise, something she said is about much more than building a toy.

“Our goal with the Legos is to simulate what a client engagement team does, trying to teach students how to communicate with one another, find that common language,” she explained. “It’s great from a teambuilding standpoint, trying to see who stands out as leaders, who takes a back seat if someone is aware of what they’re doing, if they’re taking that leadership role and dominating.”

Lynn said she picked up on the goal of the exercise. “I learned the importance of communication and adaptability. You have to be able to speak to people who maybe don’t say the same things as you, or they explain things a bit differently.”

Her mother thinks the accounting camp will turn out to be a useful experience for her.

“She is her own person, so I hope she came away from this camp having a better understanding of what she wants to establish for her career,” LaMonica Duckworth remarked. “Knowing if that something were to happen, there’s not only other students, but faculty and staff that support her, that will have her back when I’m not around.”

Alaina Horsford, a sophomore at the Farmer School, acted as one of several chaperones for the high school students. But two years ago, she was one of the high school students at the camp.

“I actually didn’t even look into Miami before, so it was my first time at Miami, my first time even venturing into accounting, so I kind of got to do both in one,” she said. “That camp is kind of the reason I decided to come to Miami and major in accounting. It was a success for me.”

“I wanted to see what it was like from the other side. A lot of my camp counselors, they’re going to be seniors this year, and I still talk to them, and they give me really good advice,” Horsford pointed out. “So I think being able to do that for rising students would be a really cool thing to do, give back to the program that gave that to me.”

“In the end, we’d love to get the students, but we’re not going to get the students all the time. If we get one or two or three, that’s success in our book,” Thomas said.

Students working with Legos Teen girl working with Legos Students listening to discussion about accounting Accounting camp group photo Students making final presentation Parents watching final presentation