Winners of AICPA's Start Here, Go Places. Accounting Competition Announced

The American Institute of CPAs recently announced a team from Batavia High School in Batavia, Illinois was selected as the winner of its Project Innovation: Start Here, Go Places. Competition of Creative Excellence. The team was awarded $4,000 in scholarships and $3,000 in grant money for their school.

Participants in the competition had to develop a hit TV show based on the accounting profession. Teams were to include two to four high school students and a faculty advisor. The students had to create a concept for a new show, develop a proposal, production budget and short video preview to pitch to a network. The “network” consisted of a panel of judges appointed by the AICPA.

“Our goal with this year’s competition was to challenge high school students to learn more about the accounting profession in a way that encouraged them to be as creative as possible through a medium they were quite familiar with,” said Heather L. Bunning, AICPA Sr. Manager, High School and Community College Initiatives. “What better way to challenge the number-crunching stereotype of an accountant than to develop a TV show based on the accounting profession? Through the course of the competition, students learned to communicate effectively, think creatively and work within a team – all of which are keys to getting ahead in the profession.”

The winning team, named Accounting Pros, consists of David Madrigal, Stanley Walden and Zach Thilges, with Jeffrey Miller serving as faculty advisor. In their proposed show, Dominic Clark, a young SEC agent with his CPA license, is hired by a toy company and discovers fraudulent activity. He is then hired by the FBI when he exposes the toy company’s fraud. In his role as forensic accountant with the FBI, Dominic works undercover to expose white collar crimes. Meanwhile he is also secretly investigating the agency’s financial history.

“I was really impressed with their idea. I could genuinely see how it puts accountants in a heroic light and generates interest in the profession with the broadest audience possible. Their pilot did a great job setting up the central plot points of the show, and their budget was well considered. The team did an excellent job explaining their idea in their final presentation and really selling their show,” said John Digrado, CPA, Executive Director of Finance, Sony Pictures Television Networks International. Digrado was the final round judge, responsible for evaluating the finalists’ videos and budgets, as well as their presentation skills.

The second place team was from Pine Ridge High School in Deltona, Florida, and they won $3,000 in scholarships and $2,000 for their school. Foxborough High School in Foxborough, Massachusetts, won third place and $2,000 in scholarships and $1,000 for their school.

High school students from around the country entered submissions for the competition. The top entries were selected by a panel of judges and their teams’ videos were posted to the Start Here, Go Places. website. The public then voted for their favorite videos and the finalists presented their ideas via Google+ Hangout to Digrado.

“The competition was a great way to get students thinking about accounting in a way they maybe hadn’t before. It was great to see the students take on the challenge of developing an idea, building a budget and enlisting their friends and teachers in making that idea a reality, said Digrado. “Each team approached the competition in a unique way, but I think all of them came away with an appreciation of both the process of developing a TV show and the accounting profession as a whole.”

The top three pilots are available for viewing on the Start Here, Go Places. website.