Josue Argueta, 21, remembers being drawn to the Academy of Finance, a magnet program offered at Lansdowne High School, while sitting in a presentation at his middle school.
He had some families members who worked in the business sector, and he was drawn to the idea of what he saw as a stable career.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity for me,” said Argueta, now a student at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In the program offered at Lansdowne, Overlea and Randallstown high schools, students take classes in economics, accounting, personal finance and banking and credit. In the academy at Lansdowne, Argueta got the opportunity to travel to New York City and Boston to see Wall Street and meet with investment bankers and financial advisers.
“I got to see how the real world works,” Argueta said. “Not many students get to experience that.”
Argueta said he thought the program was a great experience, and part of what made it so positive for him was the teachers he had along the way.
He said Mike Martin, a 15-year veteran teacher and director of the Academy of Finance program, was the “best teacher I had in my lifetime.”
Martin earlier this month was named the 2019 Financial Education and Capability Award Winner by The CASH Campaign of Maryland (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope), the Maryland Council on Economic Education and the Maryland State Department of Education.
The state-level recognition comes with a $1,000 prize, which Martin said he plans to invest in his students.
“I don’t like to go out and sound my own horn. I’m really glad for the program to get recognized,” Martin said. “Lansdowne High School is a school that has some really good kids in there, some good staff in there, but it doesn’t always get the recognition it needs.”
A total of about 45 students are in the Academy of Finance program at Lansdowne High, he said, and enrollment hovers around 15 students per graduating class. Like other magnet programs in the county, students have to meet certain requirements and apply in order to enter the Academy of Finance. Lansdowne High has an 84 percent four-year graduation rate; Martin says he “can’t remember a single kid” who didn’t graduate who was enrolled in the Academy of Finance program.
The program includes lessons on retirement accounts, the basics of the stock market and how to invest. If students get a B grade or higher in academy courses, they can earn college credit, Martin said.
Martin, 65, began teaching at Lansdowne when he was 50. He had been working as a real estate agent and baseball coach before then, and said he “really wanted a change” from the business world.
“I think this is the one thing, in my opinion, that kids need in high school, personal finance,” Martin said. Martin teaches five classes between two days; Lansdowne operates on “A Day” and “B Day” schedules that are divided into four blocks each.
Lisa Mack, the board of education member who represents Lansdowne High, said she thought the program was “absolutely wonderful” and that it “prepares students for real life.”
"I know how important it is for kids to learn what they need to learn in life, not just their job, but in life,” Mack said.
All schools in Maryland have a financial literacy requirement for graduation, with some school systems requiring specifically one credit or half-credit courses.
“The funny thing is, [the students] know so much more than the whole staff at our school about this stuff, or their parents,” Martin said. “Everywhere I go, people say, ‘I wish I could take your class.’”
The University of Maryland’s Argueta had that opportunity. While he’s unsure what he wants to do after graduation, Argueta is excited for an upcoming summer internship with Morgan Stanley. And all these years later, he still appreciates Martin.
“It’s because of him that I started my interest in finance and really led me to school,” Argueta said. “I don’t know if I would be in this career or even in college without him.”