By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — As the school year begins, the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants is launching a new early college academy focused on accounting at Haverhill High School that will allow students to earn up to 12 college credits through UMass Lowell.
The high school already has the NAF Academy of Information Technology. This new addition is called the "NAF Academy of Finance."
NAF, formerly known as the National Academy Foundation, is a nationwide educational nonprofit organization.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of first-generation students and diverse entrants into the accounting profession. The CPA organization hopes to bring this program to high schools across the state in the coming years, officials with that group said.
Participating students must take the school's honors accounting course, which is endorsed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is taught across the country, and they must take a combination of two to three other courses, selecting from advanced placement (AP) economics, AP statistics, NAF Principals of IT and NexGen Personal Finance. Each course offers three college credits at UMass Lowell and each has a qualifying exam.
Students in the program will benefit from real-life experiences that will augment their classroom studies through a mandatory 120-hour internship program supported by area accounting firms and businesses.
"UMass Lowell has agreed to accept these courses upon passing a test for each one," said accounting teacher Lori Capra, who is leading the new academy. "But there is no requirement to attend UMass Lowell."
Ten incoming juniors who were recruited as sophomores have already enrolled in the new academy, she said.
"Any other student who is interested should see their guidance counselor," Capra said.
The program is fully funded by the Society of CPAs' Educational Foundation, whose mission is to inspire and support the next generation of CPAs in Massachusetts.
It is the first accounting-focused, early college partnership in the state, Society officials said.
Zach Donah, senior director of advocacy for the Society of CPAs, said that in choosing its first high school to introduce this accounting program, officials with that group had already forged ties with Capra.
"We've worked with Lori for well over a decade on some of our high school outreach programs, such as high school conferences and career seminars, and we saw her commitment to students and to the profession first-hand," Donah said. "The administration and faculty at Haverhill was committed early on, as they were already engaged with the NAF Academy of Information Technology."
Capra is working with a team from the Society of CPAs to bring education, business and community leaders together to expose students to industry-specific curricula and work-based learning experiences. Part of that effort was the creation of an academy advisory board to help guide the development and structure of the program.
She said the society is paying the $2,000 annual fee for the high school to have the NAF Academy of Finance, which is new to the school this year.
"These are courses we're already teaching, but with NAF, it gives the program more credibility and students must complete an internship," she said. "Many of these internships will be provided by society members."
Officials with the CPA group cited data from the American Institute of CPAs showing that minorities represent only one in six professionals in accounting firms nationwide, a statistic the profession hopes to change.
Additionally, accounting is often a second-generation career — people with CPAs for parents frequently follow them into accounting, they said.
The new academy at Haverhill High is the latest initiative by the Society of CPAs to address these issues and help build a pipeline of diverse young people interested in accounting, Society officials said.
"The Massachusetts Society of CPAs believes increasing diversity in the accounting industry will strengthen the profession as a whole,” said President and CEO Amy Pitter. "The new academy in Haverhill will open doors for local students and is a testament to the profession’s commitment to diversity and inclusion at all levels."
The NAF Academy of Finance started in 1982 with 30 students and today serves 26,000 nationwide in over 200 academies. According to NAF, 98 percent of participating seniors graduate from high school and 89 percent go on to a college or university.
JD Hoye, president of NAF, said the Academy of Finance has stood the test of time and continues to make a difference in the lives of students.
"I am confident it will create a world of opportunities for students at Haverhill High School," she said.
For more information about the academy and Educational Foundation, visit mscpaonline.org/edfoundation.
The Massachusetts Society of CPAs is the state professional association of certified public accountants, representing more than 11,000 members in public accounting practice, industry and business, government and education.g practice, industry and business, government and education.