Students team up with banking firm

Eight eighth-grade students from The Young Scholars Academy in the Bronx ended a mock business acquisition project recently by presenting their recommendations to investors at the private equity firm Castle Harlan.

Castle Harlan has been collaborating with the school since 2006 through PENCIL, a nonprofit facilitator of school-business partnerships that inspires solutions to the challenges facing public education.

Together, Castle Harlan and principal Vaughn Thompson of The Young Scholars Academy, located at 3710 Barnes Avenue, have launched a variety of initiatives to provide career awareness opportunities and enrich the school’s financial literacy curriculum.

This year, the PENCIL Partners launched the “Distinguished Scholars Program,” having eight students meet biweekly with Castle Harlan employees analyzing and valuing actual companies over the course of five months.

“Our students are clearly more interested in the financial services industry because of this program,” principal Vaughn said.

“We were especially pleased to be engaging many female students, including our team leaders, in the field.”

Michael Haberman, president of PENCIL, said the successful launch of the Distinguished Scholars Program reflects growing interest among school leaders in bringing financial literacy to the classroom.

“In today’s challenging economic environment, it has become especially important for students to have a basic grasp of how the finance industry works,” Haberman said.

“We look forward to further developing the Distinguished Scholars Program at the Young Scholars Academy next year, and also hope to replicate their financial literacy model at partner schools.”

This year’s inaugural class of Distinguished Scholars was selected for the competitive program last fall after undergoing an interview and application process. Since January, they have studied a variety of topics with their Castle Harlan mentors—including how to read cash flow statements, analyze historical financials, and model future projections.

By applying this knowledge, they have been able to perform valuations on two real companies. During their recent final presentation, the students issued recommendations on whether to acquire these companies to a mock investment committee comprised of four Castle Harlan employees, including the firm’s executive committee chairman Leonard Harlan.

“In just six months, these students went from knowing almost nothing about finance, to dealing with business analysis in a very sophisticated way,” Harlan said.

“Most importantly, we hope we conveyed the message that people do care about them. If they succeed, we all succeed.”

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