Many high school students have only a vague idea about what the world of finance has to offer. The comptroller of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, however, envisioned a program that would introduce students to the various opportunities available in finance. This vision became a reality in the summer of 1996 with the inauguration of the St. Louis Summer Finance Institute.
The program, modeled after a similar one in Chicago, offers students the opportunity to gain experience in and exposure to the field of finance. The St. Louis Summer Finance Institute also gives students the opportunity for hands-on experience and to meet professionals who can be influential in their career paths.
Serving as the St. Louis Summer Finance Institute's honorary chairman, the comptroller called upon colleagues in the financial industry to become involved with the project. They formed a board of directors and mapped out plans for fundraising, curriculum planning, and other administrative activities.
Starting from ground zero with no financial backing, board members knew their first step was to raise funds for the Institute. Costs were estimated at $2,000 per student intern, which includes a six-week salary, and the board hoped to place at least 10 students in the first year of the program. A nationwide campaign was launched to solicit financial backing.
Through a vigorous letter-writing campaign, more than 100 financial institutions were contacted, including commercial and investment banks, money management firms, and governmental and accounting firms throughout the nation. The board of directors also hosted a luncheon for potential sponsors, which allowed the board to give potential investors a better understanding of the program in person. At the same time, local firms were contacted and encouraged to provide positions for intern placement. The response received was promising.
Curriculum and Student Recruitment
Once the commitment of financial support was evident, board members proceeded with setting up the curriculum for the program and recruiting student participants.
The internship was designed to allow students to work between 30 and 40 hours per week, with each Friday devoted to a day-long seminar. These seminars, sponsored by participating firms, combined tours, lectures, and public finance case studies. Seminar topics covered commodity trading, law and finance, office etiquette, and other issues.
Simultaneously with fundraising and curriculum planning, the recruitment of student interns was undertaken. With intern recruitment coinciding with the end of the school year, board members knew their task would be a laborious one. Many students seeking summer employment had already secured other positions; however, board members were adamant that the distinct group of students they were searching for would respond. Applications were sent to both public and parochial high schools in the St. Louis City area, and a vast pool of applicants responded.
Ten students participated in the inaugural year of the St. Louis Summer Finance Institute. …