The Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance opens for the 2009-2010 school year with a curriculum focused on finance, financial literacy and the tools for succeeding in business. From its speaker series, workshops and internships in the world of finance to instruction in Chinese, the school is a welcome departure from the one-size-fits-all-students model typical of U.S. high-school education.
“What we want is for the kids to have the tools and skills to make an informed decision about their future and their plans beyond high school,” says Lena Borst, the school’s principal. “And even if they don’t want a career in finance, they will still have the tools to know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, how to manage their money and a desire to pursue professional careers.”
The academy is the brainchild of Borst, a former corporate executive who also worked for the National Academy Foundation. However, its location in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of New York City’s Brooklyn borough is the decision of the Department of Education. It is one of several theme schools that the department is opening this year in the city’s five boroughs to provide students curriculum concentrations in subjects to which they are attracted. City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology also opens this year in Brooklyn.
“If a theme speaks to a student’s interest and the theme is carried through core curricular subjects and extracurricular activities, a student has a greater interest to learn and to attend school regularly,” says Tanya Navas, New York City school director for the National Academy Foundation. “[BAGF] was placed in Bedford-Stuyvesant because students from every community deserve to have a high-quality education and, given the [New York City Department of Education’s] high-school structure, where students select their school, they shouldn’t have to travel for hours to attend a school that meets their needs and interest.”
The new school will be housed in the Ron Brown Academy, which is named after the first African-American to serve as United States secretary of commerce and already has a focus on business. Brown, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, died with 34 others in 1996 in a plane crash in Croatia.
On opening day, Sept. 8, 33 students were enrolled at BAGF. There’s room for another 75. Students are not required to take an entrance exam. They simply have to show interest in the core subjects to be accepted. “Right from the very start, the students will have academic and practical experience in business and finance,” says Regina Flannery, Department of Education liaison to the National Academy Foundation. “They will be introduced to the business community and will participate in a very meaningful way.”
The curriculum includes much of the unwritten language of the business world, from the importance of a firm handshake and business cards to office etiquette and language and written skills. Borst plans to find a sister school whose core concentration will enhance her students’ curriculum and experience.
BAGF students must adhere to a dress code, which, depending on the school day and planned activities, mandates business or business-casual wear. All the students are expected to participate in an internship during their junior year. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, one of the borough’s biggest cheerleaders, gave the school a $500,000 grant, which, says Borst, will be used to turn one of the classrooms into a trading floor. She hopes to organize a trip abroad if the financing is available.
“The goal is to expose the students to as many character-building and career opportunities as possible,” Borst says.