More than 270 local high school students will convene at Niagara University on March 4 to take part in workshops on business leadership and etiquette, and compete in a new stock market challenge that's based on real-world results.
The seven participating high schools are members of the National Academy Foundation, an organization that develops industry-focused academic curricula and work-based experiential learning opportunities to prepare young people for college and career success.
Each of the high schools that will be on campus Tuesday - Barker, Clarence, Lake Shore, Lancaster, Lewiston-Porter, North Tonawanda and Orchard Park - maintains an NAF Academy of Finance. The academies connect students with professionals working in the areas of financial services and personal finance, and offer courses on banking and credit, financial planning, global finance, securities, insurance, accounting and economics.
This marks the second time Niagara University has held the daylong program.
"The directors of the academy programs came to us last year to find out if we could help teach their students the soft skills needed to succeed in business and in college," said Christine Schwartz, associate director of continuing education at NU. "By the time the program concluded, the NAF directors expressed their enthusiasm for us to do it again in 2014."
"We really had no idea how it was going to go over," added Barbara Converso, principal of Barker High School and one of the event's primary organizers. "There were several new academies that were just formed at the time, so we thought it would be a nice way to get the new participants involved with the students who had been involved for a while. The teachers and students came away very impressed."
Like last year, the students will engage in workshops on leadership with Mitch Alegre, a business professor at NU and coordinator of the university's EAGLE program, and etiquette with John Bourdage, a graduate of the internationally renowned Ivor Spencer School for Butler Administration and Personal Assistants.
"The workshop on etiquette was a real eye-opener for many of these kids, who obviously aren't used to eating in a professional setting," said Converso, noting students are more apt to heed the advice of university officials. "I can say some of these things until the cows come home, but when they hear about dressing appropriately or the risks of texting and social media from college administrators, it really gets through to them."
New to the agenda are 45-minute sessions that will introduce students to finance professor Ed Hutton's "Stock Market Challenge." The competition requires students to test their business knowledge, logic and reasoning by buying and selling virtual stocks from the Standard and Poors 500 over a 10-week period. The students will be divided into teams and track their progress using a password-protected software program.
To help them make sound decisions, the students will use online research tools and news sources such as the Wall Street Journal. Student-mentors from NU_Finance, Niagara University's finance and economics club, will visit teams at their respective high schools several times during the competition, which concludes May 9.
"We would like the high school students to understand how the stock markets work by engaging them in an exciting inter-high school challenge," Hutton said. "By completing the challenge, students will understand the way stock trading works, and how prices of stocks move in response to changing information, such as economic news and company performance."
Winners will be announced the week of May 12, at which time the winning high school's name will be engraved on the Niagara Cup. The victorious school will retain possession of the Niagara Cup until next year's challenge.
"Numerous studies have shown that investing in stocks is a necessary part of any long-term investment plan," Hutton said. "By participating in this exercise, students will become familiar with the operation of the stock markets so that they can use that information in their own investing."
"The experience really makes such an impression on all of the students," Converso said. "Being on a college campus, working with university professors and seeing the other high school students - I think it really crystallizes why they wanted to join the academy in the first place."
Niagara University's College of Business Administration features a nationally recognized finance program, and is accredited by the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). Niagara offers an undergraduate degree in finance, an MBA degree with concentrations in finance and strategic wealth management, and a new M.S. in finance. To learn more about the College of Business Administration, call 716-286-8050 or visit www.niagara.edu/business.