Win-Win: Balancing the Books at Hands Across the World

Posted by on November 28, 2012

accounting degree

Katrina Repp, Instructor Janice Wilson, Matt Breitbach and HAW Director Brianda Cediel

Nearly 10 years ago, Brianda Cediel co-founded the nonprofit organization Hands Across the World, a first-stop for immigrants to Central Minnesota to learn English and basic living skills. Since then, her community outreach extends to area college students as well.

“I like to have [Minnesota School of Business accounting students] here learning the Quickbooks and working,” she says. “It’s no different an experience than at a major corporation, and I have worked for one. It’s just that they have millions of dollars to track,” she smiles, “and we just have dollars.”

MSB-St. Cloud student Matt Breitbach appreciates the experience.

Volunteering for HAW, he says, “gives us students valuable hands-on experience that will be very useful to us when we become full-time employees. This gives us the opportunity to put our skills to use somewhere other than in the classroom.”

Breitbach adds, “Meanwhile, [we are] able to help an organization that is very valuable to our community.”

Accounting degree instructor Janice Wilson has partnered with students at HAW for two years. Currently, she explains, “the students are volunteering to study the . . .  computerized nonprofit accounting system in place at Hands Across the World.”  

Wilson continues, “Brianda relies on volunteers to record transactions and report to grantors and the Board of Directors. Our goal is to document the procedures for future volunteers to follow. Increasing the consistency of reporting will improve the integrity of the information.”

Cediel recognizes that the relationship is mutually beneficial to the organization and to the college students. “They need a coach,” she maintains. “They need confidence when they go out to find a job.”

Minnesota School of Business accounting graduate, Sarah Steckling

This belief is proven true in Sarah Steckling, a 2011 accounting graduate from MSB who is currently employed in the accounting department at Pan O Gold in St. Cloud, Minn. She also volunteered as a student at HAW and presently serves as its treasurer on the Board of Directors.

The experience she gained at HAW was invaluable, says Steckling. “It is about using the tools—like Quickbooks–and gaining confidence,” she adds.

Steckling found competition stiff when seeking employment. Volunteering was her way of getting a foot in the door.

Current student Katrina Repp agrees, “I think my most valuable take-away is going to be the experience that I get from working on the project.”

She maintains it is valuable “because it’s a way for us to see more of how these types of organizations are run. We can gain insight in what types of things work best for the organization.”

It is clear that the student partnership with Hands Across the World is a winning combination of skills, learning, and experience that benefits all involved.

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