Jenna Breon, center, and Jamison Gomsak work on a project comparing banks during an Academy of Finance class at Westminster High School Wednesday, Sept. 10.
Jenna Breon, center, and Jamison Gomsak work on a project comparing banks during an Academy of Finance class at Westminster High School Wednesday, Sept. 10. (DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Students in the Carroll County Public Schools Academy of Finance spent their class time last week comparing the differences between accounts and loans offered by major banking institutions, such as BB&T, PNC, Wells Fargo and others.

The Academy of Finance offers students an opportunity to explore real-life scenarios to gain a better understanding for their personal financial future and possibly a career in the field. Now, the program will offer them an extra benefit following their college graduation, one that could jump-start their hiring.

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The Carroll County Academy of Finance is one of three programs nationwide to meet requirements for the National Academy Foundation's NAFTrack Certified Hiring credentialing initiative, an incentive that partners with companies to promise special consideration to job applicants who earn these credentials in high school.

The Carroll County Academy of Finance, based in Westminster High School, and two other schools across the nation were chosen to pilot the credentialing initiative.

"To be one of the pilot schools says a lot about the quality of students we have," said Karen Meros, the Academy of Finance teacher.

The Carroll County Academy of Finance is part of the National Academy Foundation and is designed for students who are interested in pursuing careers in the financial services industry. There are 216 such programs in 34 states across the country.

Students who complete the program will receive a certificate recognizing their achievement and, upon their first job interview out of college, can state on their resume that they've passed the program.

Companies such as HP, Verizon and Xerox among others are involved in the initiative, according to a Carroll County Public Schools news release.

Meros said some NAF partners will guarantee an interview to students with these credentials if they apply for an opening.

To receive the recognition, students need to submit an internship evaluation from the internship supervisor to NAF, complete work-based learning projects, take rigorous academic coursework and pass industry-vetted assessments throughout the year-long course.

Meros, currently in her third year teaching the Academy of Finance courses, previously taught business courses at Winters Mill High School.

This year, the Academy of Finance has 13 students enrolled, but next year's class will include 24 students, one of the largest yet, she said.

With the expanded enrollment, Meros said she is looking for local businesses that may be able to serve as an internship site for students.

Over the summer, students interned at sites such as the Community Foundation of Carroll County, the Carroll County government budget office, Merrill Lynch, Farmers & Merchants Bank and the Shoe City headquarters in Woodlawn.

Mandi Trostle, a senior at Century High School, applied for the program after learning about the course through a fair at school.

"There is a lot it offers," Trostle said. "So far it's been really good and rewarding."

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Trostle interned in the Carroll County budget office this summer

Brad Schuler, a senior at Century, interned with the Community Foundation of Carroll County and said he applied for the program because of its internship opportunities and ability to earn college credits.

"Being out in the real world, you really get experiences that you wouldn't get in a classroom setting," he said.

Students in the program — which begins in January and runs for one year — are also required to take one course at Carroll Community College. They can earn up to six college credits through the program.

To be eligible for the Academy of Finance, students need to have a 2.5 GPA, a 94 percent attendance rate and need to complete an intention form to apply with Meros.

The Academy of Finance has been offered to Carroll County students since 2005.

Reach staff writer Blair Ames at 410-412-4880 or blair.ames@carrollcountytimes.com.

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