NJIT Teaches Urban High School Students the Fundamentals of Finance

The Financial Literacy Camp teaches students the fundamentals of finance while allowing them to have summer fun.

Seti Vega sacrificed a month of summer to study finance at NJIT. He enrolled in the Financial Literacy Program, a four-week camp that teaches high school students the fundamentals of finance.

But Seti didn’t miss out on summer fun. Rather, he enjoyed his time at NJIT while learning a lot about finance, a subject he now intends to study in college.

“Before I came to this camp, I wanted to study computer science in college,” said Seti, who will be a sophomore in September at Bergen Technical High School in Teterboro. “But now, because of this program, I also want to study finance. Education comes first in my family and coming to this camp was the best decision I could have made.”

Seti was one of 34 students who graduated recently from the Financial Literacy Program, now in its 20th year. The program includes classes, lectures, computer labs, fun outings and a field trip to Wall Street. Participants in the camp not only study financial management, investment and economics, but also develop public speaking and presentation skills. They also learn teamwork skills from group projects and develop motivation for academic and professional success.

For their group projects, the students divide into teams. Using financial models and analysis, the students gather data and report on five prominent public companies. This summer, the teams reported on Netflix, Nike, Adidas, BMW and Mercedes Benz. On the last day of camp, the teams gave presentations on what they learned about their respective companies and if they would recommend buying their stocks.

“Over the course of the camp the students learn how to research and assess financial information and make sound decisions based on that research,” said Michael Ehrlich, a professor of finance at NJIT’s Martin Tuchman School of Management, who is the principal of the Financial Literacy Program. “But most importantly, the camp gives them confidence, brings them onto a college campus and lets them view themselves as future college students.”

Emmanuel Tselentakis, who recently received a master’s degree in finance from NJIT, was the lead teacher for the camp and had help from teacher assistants. The camp was free to the students, who come from 75 urban high schools near to Newark. The camp is supported by Hugh and Marion Conway, two NJIT graduates, as well as the TD Charitable Foundation and the Leir Charitable Foundations.

The Conways said they fund the camp because they believe in its purpose: to give urban high school students a “step up,” and put them on the “track to success and college.” Both of them grew up in cities — Hugh in Hoboken and Marion in Newark — so they enjoy supporting urban students “from the community.”

And as alumni, they also believe in NJIT. They met here while they were students 50 years ago and have been married for 46 years. He has a degree in electrical engineering (1969), and she has a bachelor’s (1970) and a master’s (1973) in chemical engineering. Their son also has three degrees from the university, so together the family has six NJIT degrees. They both said they had great careers — Marion still works as a consultant to nonprofit companies — and are thus happy to support an effective program run by their alma mater.

“We’ve supported the financial literacy camp for nine years,” said Marion, “because we believe in the community.”

By Robert Florida (robert.florida@njit.edu)