For once, we have a heartwarming story of a person who set her mind to accomplishing a goal in spite of more than her fair share of adversity and challenge. This should shame all of you C students into at least pretending like you are grateful for what you have, at least until next semester.
Last week, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants announced that Ms. Hefgine G. Fils-Aime, a spring 2011 graduate of the University of South Florida, has been awarded Beta Alpha Psi’s Medal of Inspiration Award. The award, sponsored by the AICPA, is bestowed upon a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and who has demonstrated an unusually high level of success despite that adversity. The award includes a $5,000 cash stipend, which Ms. Fils-Aime plans to use to help continue her education by pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in accountancy at Wake Forest University.
Ms. Fils-Aime’s story is one of overcoming persistent obstacles. In the mid-2000s, her parents sent Fils-Aime and her sister to Florida to live with relatives, fearful that their young daughters were in danger if they remained in Haiti. Then 14-year-old Fils-Amie, a native French and Creole speaker, had to learn English immediately and was enrolled as a junior in high school due to having skipped a grade in Haiti and the differences between the Haitian and American school systems. Fils-Aime graduated high school at age 16 and enrolled in the University of South Florida.
While the other 18 year-olds in the dorms were partying and trying to get her to take that route with them, she chose to remain focused on her education. As if that weren’t challenging enough, her biggest challenge arrived on Jan. 10, 2010, when Haiti was hit with a 7.0 earthquake. It would be days before she knew what happened to her parents and younger brother. Her mother did not survive the earthquake, buried in the rubble of their home when it collapsed. Port-au-Prince was so damaged that she could not fly in to attend her own mother’s funeral. Somehow during all this, she stuck to school and her extra-curricular activities, which included serving as student project support assistant at the Business Systems Reengineering Department, a candidate for Beta Alpha Psi and the Brothers Points coordinator for Alpha Kappa Psi. She attended PwC’s Florida Leadership Adventure in the summer of 2010.
“The winner of this year’s Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration Award, Hefgine G. Fils-Aime, is a shining example of a person who overcame extreme hardship, and a language barrier in a foreign country, to achieve success,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA’s vice president of academic and career awareness. “Her dedication, motivation and courage to continue offers inspiration and hope to every one of us who has thought about quitting when the going got tough.”
Fils-Aime was presented the award on Friday at Beta Alpha Psi’s 2011 annual meeting in Denver.
“Hefgine Fils-Aime’s life story is an inspiring one for everyone who is part of Beta Alpha Psi,” said Mary Stone, president, Beta Alpha Psi. “For members, it is a story to remember when life seems overwhelming or unfair. For faculty advisors, forum members, and staff, it is a story to remember when confronted by the media stereotype that today’s students don’t work hard. For all of us, it is reminder that great challenges can be overcome with hard work, perseverance and good humor.”
Fils-Aime graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting with an overall GPA of 3.89 in May of 2011 and received a full-time offer from PwC. She was recognized on the College of Business’ top 25 under 25 and had been active in Beta Alpha Psi, Alpha Kappa Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma.
Current BAP students may vote for either themselves or another BAP student who they feel meets the criteria for this award, which is given out annually. There are two criteria whereby students can win. First, they may have experienced extreme hardships in their lives in pursuing their education, and demonstrated an unusually high level of success in spite of that adversity. Or, second, they may have done something particularly inspirational in the course of their young lives that had tremendous impact on someone else’s life. Either path is acceptable. Students are encouraged to participate in the program, not to bring honor or glory to themselves, but to inspire students to want to affect on the world around them in a positive way.