Contributors to the Washington CPA Foundation make a difference in the lives of future CPAs. Read stories of people who were able to pursue their dream of becoming a CPA because of the Foundation's scholarship program.

Pursuing the American Dream: One of the Lucky Ones

by Jocelyn Nystrom | Oct 20, 2016

Adama Kandeh has a unique story explaining his intense desire to become a CPA. It’s a passion combined with a tenacious spirit that drives him to double major in accounting and finance at the University of Washington (UW).

Adama applied for a $5,000 scholarship through the Washington CPA Foundation for the 2016-2017 academic year while in his junior year at UW Bothell. He surpassed 111 competitors to earn one of the 46 annual scholarships awarded by the Foundation. Scholarship winners exhibited high academic performance, active community involvement, a desire for becoming a CPA, and came highly-recommended by faculty or employers.

“The Washington CPA Foundation scholarship brings me one step closer to realizing my American dream," explains Adama.

Adama, who immigrated to the US, was born and raised in The Gambia, along with seven siblings, on his family’s farm. Instead of attending elementary school, he spent his time working on the farm. None of his family members had stepped foot in a classroom or had considered the possibility of attending school. One day, while visiting his uncle in the city, the uncle decided to enroll him at school which he graciously accepted.

At the age of nine Adama began elementary school and ultimately earned a merit scholarship for graduating at the top of his class. He was able to attend high school, thanks to a scholarship ($100 per year) sponsored by a nonprofit. With the scholarship, Adama pursued a two-year post-secondary education (equivalent to an associate degree). Only seven percent of applicants were fortunate enough to be selected for this award each year. Being able to complete his high school education, along with his uncles’ mentorship, inspired him to pursue a career as a CPA.

After graduating with an advanced high school diploma, Adama worked for The Gambian Government Treasury Department. Soon thereafter, he ventured to work for The Gambia Radio and Television station, where he received funding to pursue his Associate of Accounting Technician certificate. He then attempted to earn the ACCA, the equivalent of a CPA license, but felt pressured to leave the country to seek his dreams and a better future elsewhere.

“At that time, elections were looming and the political atmosphere was tense. If you opposed the government in any way, you could possibly lose your job,” Adama disclosed.

Fortunately, Adama’s cousin, a successful journalist in the Seattle area, encouraged him to move to Seattle, which he did. Adama began attending Edmonds Community College in 2013 and later transferred to the University of Washington.

Adama considers himself fortunate to be able to attend one of the finest business colleges in the Pacific Northwest and looks forward to graduating in June 2017. After graduation he will prepare for the CPA exam and aspires to work for the government in their financial audit department.

“If not for the Washington CPA Foundation scholarship I would not have been able to complete my education. The scholarship is providing me more time to learn and study. I am very grateful to the Foundation and the WSCPA for this scholarship to be able to allow me to pursue my dream of becoming a CPA," Adama explained.

“Forward Ever Backward Never” is Adama's daily mantra that keeps him focused, motivated and inspired.

“Pursue, persevere and stay strong. Never give up in life. One day, you can get whatever you want just don’t give up,” said Adama. “Forever forward!”

Are you a Washington accounting student? Could you use a $5,000 scholarship for the 2017-18 school year? Apply for one! The application is online, and saves your progress so that you can start it now and finish it later if you need to. Take the first step and start your application now!

Jocelyn-Nystrom-HeadshotJocelyn Nystrom is the WSCPA Advocacy and Foundation Coordinator. You can reach her at


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