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For one ACLA attendee, acceptance and experience push her to next step

Written on May 1, 2020

By Molly Ryan Kowaleski, OSCPA content & community manager

The Accounting Careers Leadership Academy (ACLA) is one of OSCPA’s most popular and long-standing programs. It is as unique as it is favored, and its participants are as exceptional and acclaimed as the program itself.

Adena2018 ACLA attendee Adena Mistovich said the program strengthened her confidence about the career she is pursuing and her place in it.

“I never felt like the odd one out,” she said. “A lot of times, it’s challenging to be… yourself in the business world, but at [ACLA], I really appreciated being able to be comfortable and not having to worry about being the odd one out.”

“It was a lot better than I even expected – it was great. I definitely took a lot from [ACLA],” she said. “I was able to relate a lot to the other students there. That was probably the best part.”

Mistovich, who is taking courses online through Penn State University, is pursuing her accounting degree and planning to graduate in December.

At 23, she is not exactly a traditional college student. In fact, “traditional” is probably a word Mistovich would not use to describe herself at all. After high school, she didn’t go to college full-time and instead opted to complete Columbus State Community College’s emergency medical technician training because she wanted to do something that would allow her to help people.

In February she enlisted in the Army and has been doing drills each weekend at home in Columbus. After her December graduation, she will head to basic training for 10 weeks and then medic training for another five and a half months.

“Everyone tells me to go into accounting in the military and just do something you already know, but I chose combat medic because I wanted to do something where I could really help,” she said. “I didn’t just want the military discounts and perks – if they didn’t have any of that, I would do it for free. I thought to myself ‘if we went to war again, what would you want to do to help?’ and combat medic is what I chose because I really just want to contribute.”

Once she’s finished with her training, she’ll start her master’s program and pursue the CPA credential.

“I definitely would’ve graduated a lot sooner if I’d known what I wanted to do at first, but I’m glad I took my time,” she said. “If you don’t know immediately what you want to do, that’s OK. You have time to figure it out. I still have a lot going for me – it’s not the end of the world if you’re young and you don’t know exactly what you want to do.”

Mistovich, who identifies as a lesbian, was pleased to find the ACLA program through her OSCPA student membership.

“Every time I walk into a room, I usually stand out, unfortunately,” she said, “So, when I saw this opportunity, I thought it was really cool. I remember thinking I wouldn’t be the only diverse person in the room. I’ve never done anything that was meant for people of color, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual people and people with military experience all at once, in one room. I thought it would be great to have all those groups together at once.”

In addition to being surrounded by a diverse group of students with relatable questions and concerns about their careers and the accounting profession, Mistovich also learned a lot from the recruiters on hand.

“The biggest thing I learned about was the different routes to becoming a CPA,” she said. “I learned a ton from the recruiters, like what they’re looking for, and how to stand out and talk to them.”

After she receives her CPA, Mistovich plans to work in public service, perhaps as a forensic accountant or fraud examiner at the FBI or the U.S. Treasury. Right now, she is just trying to gain as much experience as she can, and she said she is a finalist for what for her would be a dream internship.

“I was so stressed out when I was in high school, but I really didn’t realize what I wanted to do until probably a year and half later,” she said. “Now, I have a clear path. I know what I’m going to do and how I’m going to get there.

“Once you know what you want to do, then just (follow) your path and don’t lose sight of it... Have goals and be excited to reach them. If you’re not excited, you won’t get there.”