Angie Havens is a young woman with a clear notion of her own future and how to get there.
"I want to be a lawyer in some area of business. By taking this, I am coming to understand the business world."The "this" to which the Kearns High School senior refers is the Academy of Finance program at Kearns High School, an exemplary joint business/education program that gives students insight into possible careers in the financial area.
The program was approved by the Granite School Board last spring and begun in Kearns High this fall. The district hopes to expand it into other schools.
"We're delighted with the way it's going," said Briant Farnsworth, assistant district superintendent. "Students have been very responsive. It makes them a part of a special group that is learning appropriate business behavior as well as finance concepts. Whether or not they choose a career in finance, they are learning important consumer skills."
The district has a partnership with American Express. The academy uses a curriculum developed by the National Academy of Finance.
Maggie Roberts, American Express public affairs coordinator, said the intent of the program is "to help educate young people in financial services - one of the fastest-growing industries in the country."
The company benefits indirectly through an increased employee pool across the country, but also is interested in furthering the needs of education.
The first academy was established in New York City in 1982 and the addition of the Salt Lake academy and two in Los Angeles in 1988 brings the total to 34. Approximately 1,500 students nationwide are participating.
Once a week, Angie and others involved in the Kearns program dress in business attire and role-play various aspects of the business world. They take nine academic courses related to business. All will be summer interns in local financial firms, earning while they learn. Some academy participants have been hired out of high school, based on their experience with a company, but 90 percent go on to college. Eighty-five percent of the college students major in some aspect of finance.
The students also visit stock exchanges, brokerage firms, credit companies and research institutions and have visiting lecturers from the industry. Their education becomes very relevant to the future when they will be out in the job market, said Farnsworth.
They also play a stock market game, competing with 80 other schools to see who makes the most astute evaluations and the best investments, based on study of the Wall Street Journal and other financial publications. Each participant gets $100,000 - all imaginary, of course - to invest.
At the end of the first four weeks, one of the Kearns teams was first among the 80 programs.
Angie recently reported to the Granite Board of Education that she "is amazed with the whole system. I want to really invest in the market some time." She is president of the Kearns Academy in its first year.
The district cooperates with Salt Lake Community College, which provides the students some courses not available at high school level at a greatly reduced tuition. The students can earn up to 30 college credits to give them a head start on higher education.
Four teachers involved in the academy were prepared through seminars and workshops, said Shauna L. Mackintosh, program director. The teachers attended a five-day training session in Chicago and also worked in financial institutions to get a firsthand feel for what they want to present in the classroom.
Eighty students applied for the first academy class, Mackintosh said. The 30 participants were selected based on academic background and personal interviews. The school wants a firm two-year commitment from those who become involved, she said.