Smith & Howard Wealth Management recently wrapped up its inaugural Smith & Howard’s Advancement of Rising Professionals (SHARP) program. Along with Smith & Howard, we accepted 22 students into this year’s program, and at the end of the day, we weren’t sure who learned more—the students or us!
Opening the day was John Lucht, Smith & Howard’s Managing Partner. He asked everyone to call out their favorite app. In addition to the expected apps like Snapchat, we also heard about OfferUp, Handyman Calculator and Spinrilla. Two Truths and One Lie, one of our favorite icebreaker games, came next. Travel to exotic locales and acceptance to faraway schools were some of the truths that caught several attendees off guard.
Since the point of the day was to learn more about the wide range of career options in the accounting and finance industries, the rest of the day focused on just that. Two panels drew a lot of interest and engagement from the students: one was a “day in the life” panel of SHWM financial planners and CPAs from Smith & Howard and the other was a panel of outside accounting professionals in a range of roles. Barbara Evans, former CFO of Thomas Concrete; Dr. Kathryn Epps, Director, School of Accountancy at Kennesaw State University; Chanika King, Corporate Director of Accounting for Kahn Ventures, and David Berdugo, VP of Community & Southern Bank each presented a compelling reason to consider accounting or finance as a career. One student said she learned from the panel that, “Accounting literally applies to everyday life…many will go into business and would learn from this program.”
Finally, just to illustrate how varied an accounting or finance career can actually be, the students divided into teams and played Spin for Success—learning about careers that use accounting or finance knowledge. Examples include FBI forensic accountant, financial advisor to celebrities, sports salary cap manager, political campaign finance manager and, of course, CPA firm partner. They learned accountants aren’t (always) boring, and one said all students should “…see how cool you (accountants) are! This was truly awesome.”
Throughout the day, students were observed and evaluated based on engagement and participation. Those scores, combined with scores based on their in-depth applications were compiled and ranked to provide us with two scholarship winners. The first ever James C. Howard SHARP scholarships were awarded to junior Cammari McDowell from Booker T. Washington High School and to senior Deja Fleming from North Atlanta High School. In separate ceremonies at each school, the students were recognized and presented with their awards and scholarship checks.