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South Hagerstown High launches finance academy

September 15, 1999

Finance AcademyBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Andrew Shelley wasn't motivated to go to college until he got involved in a new vocational program at South Hagerstown High School.

"It wasn't a big thing for him before and now it is," said his father, Harold Vandover.

Shelley is one of 16 students enrolled in South High's finance academy, a set of courses designed to prepare students for the financial services industry. He applied after his accounting teacher told him about it last year.

"I was a little skeptical. I had no idea it would be this big," he said. The junior plans to study business at James Madison University.

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Vandover said he is very impressed with the program. "I wasn't really aware of how much backing it had from the business community."

Father and son attended a Wednesday morning kickoff ceremony at South High for the program, which began this year. Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said vocational education is not just for those who don't attend college.

South High is the first county school to create a finance academy using National Academy Foundation curricula, courses that cover concepts such as banking, international trade and estate planning.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization based in New York City. The head of a Manhattan brokerage firm started the first academy in a Brooklyn, N.Y., high school in 1982, according to President John Ferradino.

Ferradino attended the kickoff along with several local business leaders, including several finance directors and bankers. Ferradino said their participation is vital to the program's success.

"What makes this program work is what I see in this room: Community support," he told the audience of about 90. "Where this goes is up to you."

The academy concept grew by word of mouth, Ferradino said. The foundation has 350 academies in 37 states serving about 28,000 students and another 20,000 have already graduated.

Citicorp Credit Services sponsored South High's academy with a $15,000 grant. The school paid a $5,000 start-up fee and sent three business teachers to a four-day training program in Anaheim, Calif., in July.

The Maryland Department of Education recently approved the academy as a completer course. By state standards, students who pass completer courses should be ready for entry-level jobs in that field.

Each participating student filled out applications and wrote essays to be accepted by an advisory board, which also reviewed grades and attendance.

Students take courses during the normal school day. The current group will visit the New York Stock Exchange and take other field trips.

Those who are successful will get paid internships at local companies such as Citicorp. Next year they will take higher-level courses at Hagerstown Community College while still in high school.

The academy is open to students from all schools.

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