Accounting for her mission to teensAlicia Foster has long...


August 21, 1994|By Sandy Crockett

Accounting for her mission to teens

Alicia Foster has long counted herself among the mathematically inclined.

The 54-year-old Baltimore native discovered a knack for numbers in her first bookkeeping class at Dunbar High School.

Now, after marriage, three children, an undergraduate degree, a master's degree and years in the business -- she's a partner at Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams accounting firm in Cross Keys -- this Certified Public Accountant is on a mission to fire up young people about accounting careers.

Ms. Foster volunteers to speak at schools and works to provide )) scholarships to college-bound teens through two organizations -- the National Association of Black Accountants and the Maryland Association of CPAs.

"I've always been interested in students. It's second nature to me," Ms. Foster says. "If I hadn't been interested in accounting, I would have become a teacher."

A career in accounting can be a tough sale to the MTV generation, but Ms. Foster appeals to their sense of practicality.

"I tell them that they can earn a very good living. That they will be employed," she says.

"A lot of young people, especially minorities, have no idea what

accounting is all about," she says. Edgar Wiggins' philosophy for running marathons could also apply to running Baltimore Crisis Response Inc.

"You just keep putting one foot in front of the other," says Mr. Wiggins, 44, executive director of the nonprofit organization, which responds to mental-health emergencies in the city.

Since it opened its doors -- actually, its phone lines -- in May 1993, the group has adopted a steady pace, adding new services and expanding existing ones when possible. Its hot line, which takes calls from suicidal people as well as those seeking other mental health services in the area, began as a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. operation, then expanded to 24 hours in January of this year. (There is another group in the area, the Columbia-based Grassroots, that also runs a crisis hot line.)

And last summer, the group began dispatching a "mobile crisis team" when called by hospitals, homeless shelters or police seeking help evaluating whether a person needs to be admitted to a psychiatric facility. Currently, the team operates mainly in East Baltimore, but Mr. Wiggins hopes to expand that service area.

The group, with an annual budget of about $800,000, gets its funds from the quasi-public Baltimore Mental Health Systems and foundation grants.

Mr. Wiggins previously worked as executive director of the Black Mental Health Alliance in Baltimore, which offers advocacy and education services; he remains active with the group.

Despite his professional commitments, he finds time to hit the streets at 4:30 a.m. for his daily run. He runs one marathon and eight to 10 shorter races a year.

"Running helps me keep my balance," he says. "It's a wonderful stress reliever."

I= The Baltimore Crisis Response hot line is (410) 752-2272.

Jean Marbella

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