Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s certified accountant, Christina Sparrock continuously proves to herself and her community that any individual can overcome their greatest obstacles through hard work and determination. Growing up, Ms. Sparrock faced learning challenges in academia and refused to accepte failure. In an interview with Carib News, Ms. Sparrock discusses how she tackled her challenges, paved a great career path for herself, and dedicates her free time to tutoring others.
As a student, Ms. Sparrock relied on her motivation to climb over her academic hurdles. She explains:
“My motivation comes from an inner need to survive – failure is not an option. My primary source of guidance and teachings came from my Barbados-native parents: my mother who only possessed a 4th grade education and my father had only an 8th grade education. School was very challenging for me. A teacher even told my mother about my lack of progress and stated that I belonged in a special class. This was a blow to my ego. Further, I had dyslexia that went undiagnosed and untreated.
“After those experiences, I knew that I would have an uphill battle with learning. So, I made a promise to myself that I would succeed at anything my heart desired.”
Ms. Sparrock adopted an unfaltering dedication to her studies – a principal that would help her achieve whatever she desired. Ms. Sparrock claims, “If I failed, I’d get up, brush myself off and try again.” Throughout her grade school years and through graduate school, Ms. Sparrock applied herself in this manner.
“Studying for the CPA exam, I felt like was literally preparing for a battle. I studied from twelve to sixteen hours a day for three months. I re-read all of my college textbooks, enrolled in a CPA prep course and studied ten years worth of exams. I was determined to pass the CPA exam. I fought like a warrior and I won.”
Saying “no” to failure was another essential step towards embarking on a career path abundant with opportunities. Ms. Sparrock’s current areas of specialty include, forensic accounting, budget and forecasting, financial modeling, SOX and auditing. One of her most memorable opportunities included consulting on special projects for the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. In a letter the Financial Manager of Best of Brooklyn, who worked closely with both Sparrock and President Markowitz, writes “I found Christina to be a pleasant and generous person who was never afraid to take on a challenging task and her expertise was a great value to the organization.”
Ms. Sparrock has also worked as a: Senior Financial Analyst and Production Accountant at the New York Post and FOX Corporation; Consultant for New Line Cinema; Forensic Accountant and Controller at Geller & Company; Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Controller at New York Theological Seminary; and Financial Controller at The Atlantic Philanthropies. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Ms. Sparrock states, “Accounting chose me. Although in school, I struggled in any class that required extensive reading and writing, I excelled in math and science. Accounting classes were easy for me, so my guidance counselor suggested that I pursue a career in accounting; and I eventually opted for this field.
“I am grateful for being able to transition from different work settings – this allowed me to learn what I like and dislike. Overall, the various job opportunities taught me to acknowledge my weaknesses and turn them into strengths; and how to enter any work setting and immediately understand the needs of the organization.”
Ms. Sparrock continuously demonstrated the ability to take initiative in both her leadership roles at the New York Theological Seminary and the Atlantic Philanthropies.
“As the CFO of the New York Theological Seminary, I helped the institution qualify for federal aid for the student loan program. I also designed the financial reporting system, which allowed me to issue budgets into actual reports for each departmental head on a monthly basis. Then each department could issue clear, concise and timely financial reports to the Board.
“At the Atlantic Philanthropies, I came in as the Controller when the company was in the process of a system conversion. Prior to the new system going into production, I customized a financial report test, which compared data and determined whether the information within the current system was complete and accurate. My test uncovered errors, and my boss appreciated my findings and used my report design as the organization’s model.”
Aside from her technical work, Ms. Sparrock also focused on building a community. For Ms. Sparrock, building relationships with her employees was critical to the success of the organization.
“As part of my incentive at the New York Theological Seminary, I successfully instituted days-off for all employees on their birthdays. On our annual employment recognition day, I would bring in board games so that employees and bosses could interact and learn more about one another. We all had fun.
“My can-do attitude and positive energy helped the President of the institution see me as the “light” of the organization. The Board also acknowledged me for my impeccable work and sound leadership.”
Further, Ms. Sparrock carried this experience into her own community, where she helps adult learners with their academic challenges.
“I always knew that my purpose was to help others. I never want to see a child come home to parents who weren’t in the position to help them with either their studies. So, in 2004, I started volunteering as a math tutor at the 1199 SEIU Learning Center in Brooklyn. There, I tutored adults in GED and CUNY Math.
“When I started, most adult students feared harsh judgment and were apprehensive. I never made any negative comments to my students and always made them feel good about themselves. I tutored them in basic math and gave them the tools they needed to pass the GED and CUNY Math exams. I was also extremely patient. If I had to explain a single equation in 20 different ways, I would.”
Many who have experiences similar to Ms. Sparrock’s often try to forget about their struggles. Ms. Sparrock’s strong connection to her childhood experiences however helps her understand the best ways to encourage students and facilitate their progress in all kinds of learning challenges. She delightfully adds,
“The most rewarding part of my volunteer work is to see the joy in a student’s face when they can answer a question correctly and by themselves. Helping another person achieve their dream is priceless.”