College of DuPage student Benjamin Hamgeri recently took part in the prestigious Mary T. Washington Wylie Accounting Internship Preparation Program.
Sponsored by the Illinois CPA Society, the program is for African American and other underrepresented students who have at least a 3.0 GPA and a sophomore or junior standing. Hamgeri was one of only 25 college or university students in Illinois selected to participate, with each receiving a $500 scholarship.
The Bensenville resident heard about the program from COD Accounting Professor Maureen McBeth.
"I owe it all to her," he said. "She is such a great teacher and approached me about this opportunity, which I had not heard about before."
During the three-day training program, held at the beginning of the year, participants networked with peers and listened to presentations from professionals at the major accounting firms in Chicago. Hamgeri also toured Grant Thornton, one of the city's top firms, and gained valuable interviewing tips.
"Everyone was enthusiastic to be there, and it was great to speak with people working in the field," he said. "On the last day, we had a chance to interview with different accounting firms for 20 minutes each. It was good to find out what they look for when hiring, and the experience encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone."
Although his brother is an accountant and his mother studied accounting, Hamgeri initially wanted to do something else for a career.
"I was interested in business but not sure what specific area to study," he said. "I was at Illinois State University but I really didn't want to go to college, so I returned home to refocus. Although my sister came to College of DuPage, I didn't want to because I didn't want to attend what I thought was just a bigger version of my high school. I found that COD is so much more."
Taking classes with McBeth helped Hamgeri see accounting the right career for him.
"I never had a teacher take so much interest in me, going the extra mile to help me develop as a student," he said. "She made me realize how prestigious accounting was. The stigma is that you sit at your desk all day. Instead, accounting is a form of communication -- it's the language of business. It tells you whether or not your business will succeed, and it's always changing."
Hamgeri plans to become a CPA but is still determining what area of accounting to pursue. Because of College of DuPage, he is optimistic about school and his future.
"COD helped relieved the pressure of attending a large university," he said. "It's much easier to focus here and everyone's door is open, from meeting with professors to finding a tutor. I've learned to ask questions and not be afraid of what other people say.
"At COD, you're getting a good education. And if you are enthusiastic and hungry to learn more, the world is yours."
For more information about the Accounting program, visit www.cod.edu/accounting.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 26,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The college grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.