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Six Young CPAs Honored by AICPA

The awards are given in memory of Maximo Mukelabai, a member of the inaugural class of the AICPA Leadership Academy whose life was tragically cut short in 2011 at age 36.

The AICPA & CIMA recently recognized six practicing CPAs under the age of 40 with the 2024 AICPA Outstanding Young CPA Award. Every year, these awards are given in memory of Maximo Mukelabai, a member of the inaugural class of the AICPA Leadership Academy whose life was tragically cut short in 2011 at age 36.

Honorees are selected annually for exemplifying the passion, intellect and inspiration demonstrated during Maximo’s career. Shortly before his passing, he became the first African American and youngest chair of the North Carolina Association of CPAs board of directors. Maximo’s influence and leadership were felt by many, and the Outstanding Young CPA Award is one way his legacy is carried on.

“The accounting profession is a dynamic and diverse profession with so many different opportunities for accountants to pursue and succeed however they choose, and this year’s honorees reflect that. These awards also help to amplify the diverse younger voices that may not be heard otherwise,” said AICPA diversity and inclusion director Crystal Cooke. “I do not envy the judges during this process. The amount of volunteerism, activities and impact on the profession I see from these candidates is fantastic, and nothing but applaudable. They know what it means to create the change you want to see. The future of the profession is definitely bright.”

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To be considered for the award, candidates submitted applications and details on their volunteer history. They provided their insight into why volunteering is important to the profession, how they have positively impacted the profession through volunteering, and how they have demonstrated leadership within their job or volunteer activities.

Applicants also provided professional references from peers, employers, and/or state CPA societies. The AICPA’s Emerging Professionals Initiative Committee (EPIC), as well as past recipients, then reviewed all qualified nominations to determine this year’s honorees. View the full list of criteria here.

EPIC’s mission is to actively promote and enhance the early-career CPA experience in the accounting profession by providing targeted leadership programs and networking opportunities to the next generation of leaders. To learn more about how the AICPA supports these emerging professionals, visit the AICPA Diversity and Inclusion webpage.

Congratulations to the following Recipients of the 2024 Outstanding Young CPA Award:

Nicole DeRosa, CPA, MAcc, Wiss & Company LLP

“Giving back to the profession that I have gained so much from over the years, is something that is near and dear to my heart. Being recognized for doing what you love with the highest level of integrity reinstates the fact that hard work truly pays off.”

Shakor J. Jukes, CPA, Amazon

“Being honored with this award recognizes the value of my contributions to the profession and serves as motivation for current and future CPAs from diverse backgrounds to consider making a longstanding positive impact on the profession.”

Jennifer Keller, CPA, Crowe LLP

“Receiving the AICPA’s Outstanding Young CPA Award means tremendous validation of my efforts and dedication to the field of accounting. It helps signify recognition from peers and industry experts, highlighting my achievements and potential within the profession. Winning this award has inspired me to continue striving for excellence and making meaningful contributions to the accounting community.”

Benjamin Schwartz, CPA, MBA, Bluebird CPAs

“As an Alaskan Native enrolled Tribal Member, I grew up with a unique blend of experiences, splitting my time between Palo Alto, CA, and the Alaskan Native Villages of Northway and Tanana, AK. Growing up, I experienced firsthand the challenges posed by limited resources and educational barriers in rural Alaska. One day, while walking home with a friend who struggled with reading, I asked why he didn’t attempt to learn. His response was both simple and impactful: ‘that’s not what we do.’ Receiving this award signifies a shift in this narrative. We are embracing a new mantra: ‘this IS what we do.’ I hope this recognition inspires young individuals to defy old constraints and pursue careers in technical fields, particularly accounting, contrary to outdated beliefs.”

Dalton R. Sweaney, CPA, Gray, Salt and Associates LLP

“This award signifies the incredible achievements we can make when working together. As a CPA from a small firm, this award is a direct result of the strength and support of those around me.”

Victoria Thayer, CPA, Novii CPA

“This award signifies the pinnacle of recognition in my career, and illuminates the path of what we can achieve when we transcend our perceived limitations. This is not just a personal milestone; it’s a shared victory that inspires continuous growth, learning, and contribution to our field. I am immensely grateful to God, my family, teammates at Novii CPA, mentors and clients.”