Summer academies add up to an informative experience for youth participants

by Mariah Oxford, College of Business and Public Policy  |   

Middle school students learn personal finance from Credit Union 1 employees during CBPP's Get Real Financial Reality Fair.
Employees from Credit Union 1 helped students understand the challenges of personal finance during the "Get Real Financial Reality Fair" as part of CBPP's Accounting Summer Academy, June 22. (Photo courtesy of College of Business and Public Policy)

More than 50 students from area middle and high schools attended academies at the College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP) last week. The day-long sessions focused on accounting and leadership, offering speed mentoring and interactive sessions on budgeting, leadership and teamwork. 

“I almost had a heart attack when I saw that the choices I made in the budgeting activity were making my credit go down,” said Mariaha Afuvai, an East High School junior. Afuvai attended the Accounting Summer Academy and enjoyed the “Get Real Financial Reality Fair” sponsored by Credit Union 1. “I learned how sales can persuade you to always get bigger and better than you may want, but that you need to maintain your budget. I’m going home tonight and will thank my parents. They’ve always been behind the scenes working hard to balance the budget and now I realize how hard that is.”

Twelve accounting professionals volunteered their time to make speed mentoring another favorite activity. They represented bookkeepers, small business owners, accounting firms, state and federal employees, large corporation executives, and even undercover employees from the IRS Criminal Investigation division. Students talked with multiple mentors in ten-minute sessions. 

High school students Lucky Lo and Mariaha Afuvai develop idea for small business during CBPP summer Leadership Academy
High school students Lucky Lo and Mariaha Afuvai develop an idea for a small business as part of CBP's Leadership Academy, June 23. (Photo courtesy of College of Business and Public Policy)

“I didn’t realize there were so many subfields in accounting, and they all sound interesting,” said Rory Williams, an East High School junior. “Coming to UAA and learning about being an accountant really opened my mind,” said her classmate Souanoo Hang. “I got interested in it as something I might do.”

Regena Earhart was thrilled to participate as a speed mentor. She is a small business owner who earned her associate degree in accounting from UAA. Regena talked with students about her educational journey and the importance of being financially independent. “As a single mom, it took me 10 years to get my degree. It wasn’t a clear path, but me finishing college inspired my children to go forward with college too.” Hearing those kinds of background stories was great, said Lucky Lo, an East High School student. “Some of them had a hard time in life, but persevered, went to college and got an amazing job — especially a job that they loved.” 

“The Accounting Summer Academy was a great opportunity to introduce middle school and high school students to the wide variety of career paths in accounting in a fun, interactive way,” said Stasia Straley, UAA accounting professor and organizer of the Accounting Summer Academy. “We are excited about our CBPP programs and wanted to invite these students to experience a college setting. They really enjoyed meeting our Seawolf mascot Spirit, who greeted them on campus and took photos with them. Another favorite part of their day was getting photos trying on tactical gear from an IRS Criminal Investigation agent who gave a presentation about his undercover work.”

Regardless of the careers they end up choosing, students can apply lessons learned through activities in the Leadership Academy, developed by CBPP Associate Dean Terry Nelson and Kori Callison, the college’s head of Business Graduate Programs and associate professor of management.

Nelson has long been a passionate proponent of leadership development and was happy to see some familiar faces among the Leadership Academy attendees. High school students Mariaha, Lucky and Sherrie Lee had actually participated in her Tom Case Leadership Fellows Juniors program three years ago at Clark Middle School. 

“It was great to get an opportunity to work with them again,” Nelson said. “I hadn’t seen them since the pandemic. Discussing leadership with young people is always inspiring because they are already leaders in their day-to-day lives — in their churches, schools, teams and families. They just may not realize it yet.”

“I enjoyed the discussion on leadership and how things like confidence can help build a leader,” said West High sophomore Suri Devillena. “It’s definitely a topic for continued conversation.” 

West Anchorage High School senior Kylie Carig said that everyone has potential to be a leader. 

“We don’t always get the chance to explore that because other people may have claimed those spots,” she said. “But speaking out on what you are passionate about can help you lead.”

Having your voice heard can be particularly challenging in group settings. Students learned that effective leaders learn how to draw out quieter voices. 

“A lot of employers aren’t just looking at your technical skills, but also at your leadership potential and how you work with a team,” Callison said. She led students through an exercise that highlighted how groups typically outperform individuals. “That’s why corporations love teams and why it’s important to learn how you can help the team function.” 

Students immediately experience a high-pressure team situation by working in groups to develop a small business idea from scratch in just 45 minutes and then pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. Their ideas ranged from a “Cozy Caffe” that offered affordable and fun child care to “Glassoptics,” eye-glasses with a computer chip and app that would automatically scan your eyes to keep your lens prescription up-to-date. 

“It was fun to come up with business ideas and also great hearing the other pitches,” said Lucky. “They were ideas I never would have thought about.”

He summed up his activity-packed Academy experiences in three words: “Worth my time.”

“Academies like this are enriched by participation from our community,” Nelson said. “We appreciate support from Credit Union 1, accounting firm BDO, all the speed mentors and the UAA TRIO program, who helped make the academies a success.”

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