WINFIELD, Kansas – RCB Bank Lead Accountant Michelle Vaught has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Especially after recently learning she passed the Certified Public Accountant Examination.

Vaught said becoming a CPA is something she’s wanted to do “as long as I can remember.” She took the fourth and final CPA exam on Oct. 18 and found out she passed earlier this month.

It’s the continuation of a process that saw her earn her college degree in 2014. Vaught started studying for the CPA in November of 2018, but her youngest daughter got sick. She already had her test scheduled, so she took the exam but did not pass. Her daughter’s illness required surgery, so Vaught took a year off to help the recovery process before starting her studies again at the end of 2019.

“I thought I would go to college right out of high school, but I started a family,” Vaught said. “But becoming a CPA was always in the back of my mind.”

Vaught has worked at RCB Bank’s Winfield location for more than 20 years (RCB Bank acquired CornerBank in 2016).

“Michelle started as a teller in April 2001 and has been an integral part of the accounting department since 2002,” said Vaught’s supervisor Marsha Woods, who is VP Accounting Manager at RCB Bank. “We are proud of her accomplishment in achieving her goal while enhancing her value to us in the accounting department.”

Vaught said while working for CornerBank in 2008, there were rumors that it was to be sold and her and other employees’ positions would be eliminated, so she started searching for a job.

“Everyone wanted experience and a degree,” Vaught said. “I had lots of experience but no degree.”

So in the summer of 2009, she started pursuing her college degree, which she obtained in 2014.

“My husband teases me that I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table for 10 years,” Vaught said, referring to all the time she spent studying for both her degree and CPA.

While studying for her degree, Vaught’s parents both became sick, and her dad passed away not long after she told him that she had graduated from college.

Vaught said after receiving her degree, “there was no stopping now.”

“I was thinking ‘You’ve been doing this online, and you need to keep going,’” Vaught said. “My dad always pushed me to keep going. That’s part of why I never dropped the ambition to just go for it.”

She passed her first CPA test in July 2020 and “kept going from there.”

Vaught spent her lunch hours with her office door closed studying. Then she’d get home from work and study 3 to 4 hours each evening. Weekends were spent studying, too, between 4 to 6 hours each day.

“I’ve never really had to study this hard for anything in my life,” Vaught said. “I didn’t anticipate how hard I would have to study. I had my laptop with me everywhere, and I had an app on my phone to help me study. If I was waiting somewhere, I’d pull out my phone and study while I waited.”

Her work ethic is not lost on her co-workers.

“She reached that goal through determination and dedication,” Woods said. “She studied several hours a day, even during her lunch hours, evenings, and weekends all while raising a family.”

Vaught has four children – three grown, and one 8-year-old.

“When I started the CPA exams, my son had just graduated high school,” Vaught said. “Now he’s a junior in college.”

Despite a full load of studying, working and raising a family, Vaught also finds time to volunteer in the Winfield community. She is heavily involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters and named the 2018 Outstanding Community Advocate by the Winfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

“She gives both her time and ability to help others who are in need,” Woods said. “An example is her leading the bank’s campaign, for over 15 years, to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cowley County.”

With all the studying, Vaught said she didn’t have much extra time – and that is something she is looking forward to recapturing.

“I look forward to spending time with my family and my horses,” Vaught said. “I haven’t been able to do that as often as I’d like because I’ve been studying. I’m looking forward to being able to have my grandkids over more often to have some fun family time and spending more time with my mom, too.”

RCB Bank is a $4.2 billion community bank with 65 locations in 36 cities across Oklahoma and Kansas. Founded in 1936, RCB Bank is committed to serving its communities with conservative banking practices and progressive banking products. Learn more at RCBbank.com or give us a call at 855.226.5722. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #798151.