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Lansdowne High School finance program earns national recognition

Lansdowne High School finance program earns national recognition
Lansdowne High School Academy of Finance teacher Mike Martin teaches a lesson on the stock market in his classroom Tuesday, June 7. (Jon Bleiweis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

In Mike Martin's classroom at Lansdowne High School, junior Jermaine Pratt is up $1,652.

Fellow junior Gorsha Reitterer is up, as well, about $1,200.

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They've kept an eye on their bottom lines since September, making moves to make sure they don't end up in the red at the end of the year.

Unfortunately for these students, they aren't leaving Martin's classroom with any money. It's part of a stock market exercise in his personal finance class.

They started with $10,000 of virtual money and had their pick of stocks to buy. On a recent Tuesday, they had their portfolios on one side of the computer screen and Marketwatch.com on the other, keeping an eye on how their picks are faring.

The class is part of the school's Academy of Finance, which was one of two in Baltimore County – the other being Overlea High School – that recently earned "Model" status from the NAF (formerly the National Academy Foundation), a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are ready for college and careers. As a result, it will be highlighted in the national NAF Next conference in July in Orlando, Fla.

In her letter to Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance, NAF President JD Hoye described the Academy of Finance programs at Lansdowne and Overlea as "shining examples of what can be accomplished when districts and schools move to a culture of linking education and business to benefit students."

Students in the magnet program at Lansdowne take five courses — half-year courses in economics and world finance; banking and credit; personal finance; and international business and finance — and a full-year course in accounting, structured to emulate real-world scenarios, Martin said. About 50 students are in the academy.

"I want these kids to be able to understand every aspect of personal finance so they can apply it to the real world," he said.

The courses are taught by Martin, along with Greg Karpers.

Karpers started teaching in 2001 after a short career in accounting. He said he's enjoyed watching students who came into the classroom only having heard about the stock market leave with a better understanding. The classes give them a chance to learn what to do with the money they're making, he said.

"It's exciting when they get to their junior and senior year and they start working and get their paychecks," he said. It gives them a step in the direction of being lifelong savers and putting part of that paycheck away."

During the 2015-16 school year, nearly 89,000 students attended 716 NAF academies across 36 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a news release.

At the NAF Next conference, Lansdowne High School alumna Chantee Steele will receive one of three Academy of Finance Alumni awards.

Steele graduated from Lansdowne and its academy as the salutatorian of her high school class in 2008. She graduated magna cum laude from Drexel University and became a certified public accountant in May 2015.

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