Academy of Finance Changed My Life

Jonathan Taylor (above right) is a senior at Long Reach High School while enrolled in the Academy of Finance. He plans to study finance and business in college. Here, Taylor blogs about his Academy of Finance experiences and their impact on his future goals.

It was my first day at the Academy of Finance. As soon as I walked in the room, I saw the stock ticker in the back. After finding a seat, I started talking to the students around me. Some went to Atholton, some to Marriotts Ridge, but for this class we were all in the same room learning about topics that interested us.

We kicked off the year by talking about the Dow’s recent downturn and the S&P 500. I was somewhat confused, to say the least, but it didn’t matter. This was going to be a great class. About a month into the class, we started learning about financial literacy. I had learned quite a bit about financial literacy at home, and I half-expected to be covering things I already knew. What I didn’t expect was for us to be participating in a 3-month personal finance simulation.

Through the simulation, everyone had the same income, job and set of vendor options, but could choose which options to select. I had several different choices for my bank, credit card, cable television, cell phone, auto loan and even renter’s insurance. The goal was to pick the best options, so I could save as much money as possible. I had my fair share of mistakes and errors, but learned a lot not only about budgeting but about myself as a consumer. Most importantly though, the simulation felt real, like something I could apply to my own life.

Throughout my time at the academy, I’ve had similar experiences with economics, accounting, international business and even entrepreneurship. But perhaps the most significant experience for me was participating in the Personal Finance Challenge. After learning about the opportunity, I hit the books reading through all the financial literacy topics we had covered in class. Additionally, my team had the chance to study with John Hauserman, a certified financial planner that my Academy of Finance teacher connected us with. We learned about tax returns, annuities, retirement planning and estate planning, all with John Hauserman.

A few months later it was time for the state-level competition. After three rounds of testing and a quiz bowl, my team emerged as first in the state. Before I could register what was going on, we were being congratulated and told we’d represent Maryland at nationals in Kansas City in May. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, it was May, and I was flying out with my team for nationals. I felt prepared but also extremely nervous.

After the first round at nationals, I looked at the team leaderboard to see how we did. We didn’t even place. “Is there even a chance to win now?” I thought to myself. We had to place second overall to qualify for the quiz bowl and have a shot at victory. Two more rounds of testing later, and I looked at the leaderboard, nervous and excited. We had qualified for the quiz bowl.

During the quiz bowl, we faced off against the first place team as we were asked 30 questions about regulations, investing, financial calculations and other financial topics. Our teams were neck and neck the entire time; there didn’t seem to be a clear winning team. Finally, it was the final question. We were up a point. We buzzed in but got the question wrong. Then the other team buzzed in and got the question wrong, too. I looked at my team and made the realization: we just won the National Personal Finance Challenge. My team’s preparation through the Academy of Finance had paid off.

Apart from providing me with valuable, memorable experiences, the Academy of Finance has made a huge impact on my future goals and plans. Before the academy, I knew I liked working with math and money, but it was only through the Academy of Finance that I got to try finance out and confirm it was right for me.

With everything I have done in the academy, I feel prepared and confident for the real world, and look forward to studying finance and business more in college. The Academy of Finance has changed my life, and I believe it can do the same for anyone else who takes advantage of the opportunity.

The Academy of Finance is one career academy in HCPSS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Taylor’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating CTE Month®, this February.