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Most preschoolers probably don't know what a certified public accountant is, let alone announce at their preschool graduation they would like to become one. 

Megan Applegate did just that, announcing she wanted to work at "my daddy's office." 

And that's exactly what Applegate is doing today — working as a CPA for Applegate & Co. in Michigan City. 

"It's in my blood," Applegate said. "My brother is an accountant, my dad is an accountant and my grandfather was an accountant. I like numbers."

After graduating from Michigan City High School where she was a four-year varsity member of the soccer and tennis teams, Applegate attended Purdue University for her undergrad degree in accounting. Then while working for her father's firm she earned her master's in accounting at Indiana University South Bend. 

Applegate wanted some outside experience so she left for Madison, Wisconsin, where she landed a job as a financial analyst managing a $26 million budget for the division of information technology at the University of Wisconsin. 

"It gave me great customer service and leadership skills," she said. After a year and a half, Applegate came home and joined her father's company, where among her tasks is working with nonprofits. Applegate & Co., which works with businesses and high-net worth individuals, has about 45 nonprofit clients. 

"With nonprofits, you don't necessarily have someone on the board or an executive director who is financially savvy," she said.

"I like to be able to explain to them their numbers in a way they can understand and help them understand their numbers better, so they can make better decisions for their organization." 

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Working with nonprofits also has increased her community involvement, Applegate said. She's a board member of the Michigan City Rotary Club and the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as on the Purdue Northwest College of Business Advisory Board. 

Applegate also is a founding member of the Lakefront Career Network, which is the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce's young professionals group. 

"I like meeting people and connecting people," Applegate said. "The LCN — it's a sense of belonging. I've met so many great people."

Stephanie Oberlie, CEO and senior vice president of Harbour Trust Management Co., knows Applegate through their work on the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce board and creating LCN.

"From the first moment I met Megan, I learned quickly that she embodies the central skills of a leader," Oberlie said.

"I witnessed her visionary skills, cooperative and collaborative approach, coupled with enthusiasm and passion for the success of the effort. Her efforts are adding great strength to the Michigan City business community."

Passing the CPA exam may be Applegate's greatest accomplishment, but her favorite accomplishment has been as the first female volunteer firefighter for the Long Beach Fire Department. 

"I just like helping others, so what better way than just running into a burning building," she said.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.