Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship celebrates inaugural club year
2:37 p.m., May 27, 2014--Newark High School may one day be able to call some of its graduates millionaires thanks to a new organization sponsored by the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) and New Castle County’s Department of Community Services.
The Future Millionaires’ Club, which aims to encourage young adults to understand the principles of building wealth and explore the workings of financial markets, celebrated its inaugural year on Wednesday, May 21, at the Newark Free Library.
Success after adversity
“We are thrilled to have been a partner in this particular program,” said Barbara Emery, CEEE program coordinator, who noted goals of the club also include helping students recognize the importance of gathering information for choosing investment strategies and providing the opportunity for students to manage stock portfolios with real money.
“Putting together economic and personal finance curricula has been a part of the mission of CEEE for 42 years,” said Emery. “This is the second time Newark High has stepped forward to do a pilot and we decided to focus on investing because it has become much more sophisticated than opening a savings account.”
The students got to work investing under the guidance of Newark High teacher Mike Costantino, but they quickly realized they could expand the goals of the club.
“‘Common sense is not enough’ is one of our mantras,” said Emery. “We realized that exploring the cost and benefit of participating in a new business should also be a key goal.”
Added Costantino, “We wanted to break down the thoughts about what a millionaire is. The students asked if we’d have lobster and steak at our meetings and I told them no, it would just be pizza. They came to understand millionaires don’t just spend money like it is nothing and many are everyday people.”
The students read books like More Money, Please: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School and The Millionaire Next Door, said Costantino, which helped them realize millionaires are businesspeople who manage their money every day.
“Once we got beyond day trading and looking at investing over the long haul, we talked more and more about how many millionaires are self-employed and small business owners,” said Costantino. “We realized we wouldn’t be doing the students a service if we didn’t get into that aspect of how building wealth can lead to financial independence.”
Enter UD’s Diamond Challenge, a real world business concept competition designed to offer high school students the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship while developing their creative, analytical and communication skills, run through the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.
“It was a last minute thing but despite the disadvantage with minimal time left in the deadline, with money at stake the students said, ‘let’s go for it,’” said Costantino.
“I kept saying they didn’t have enough time but not only did they find the time, four teams made it to the semifinals, two teams placed in the preliminary round and earned $500, and one team made it into final place,” added Emery.
As a result of the students’ experience, participating in the Diamond Challenge became the sixth and final goal of the club.
Lessons in wealth management
During Wednesday’s celebratory event, the students heard from David Grimaldi, chief administrative officer of New Castle County.
“This is a great program,” said Grimaldi. “One of the students came up to me today and asked if I am still pessimistic which is what I told them when I first met them. The stock market rise up has far exceeded historical standards and the Federal Reserve has reduced tapering while the U.S. GDP grew at 0.1 percent. There’s a Wall Street saying that it’s better to be early than to be late.
“My best advice to the students would be that the key to investing is separating emotions from thinking. Buy when everyone is scared and sell when everyone is happy.”
Diana Brown, community services manager for New Castle County, lauded the partnership with CEEE and Costantino for his involvement with the students.
“We hear a lot about financial literacy these days and how important those skills are,” said Brown. “This has been a great opportunity for students to develop those skills and we’re appreciative of the efforts of all involved.”
As for the students, they were quick to catch on to the lessons in wealth management.
Jakub Simacek, who took home second place overall in the Diamond Challenge with teammate Andreas Elterich, said the club really helped with developing and deciding on a business idea.
“When I joined the club it was largely for investment advice,” said Simacek. “But the project to build my own video game and participating in the Diamond Challenge gave me more motivation to learn how to organize a business and how to have a proper business plan set up. That’s one of the most valuable things I learned.”
Brett Zicarelli, who with teammate Tristan Graham of Octane Mobile took home fourth in the preliminary rounds of the Diamond Challenge, said he dove into the stock market fully when he first joined the club.
“I invested all my money in what I saw as having the most growth potential,” said Zicarelli. “I recognized after a few trades that style wouldn’t work anymore and that day trading is a horrible idea. My mind has changed to dividend stocks. Investing can be a scary thing and I’m definitely more comfortable investing in stocks now through my work with the club.”
Zicarelli also added that despite not winning the Diamond Challenge, he still took away important lessons.
“Pursue the opportunities you’ve been given,” said Zicarelli. “If you take advantage of opportunities, you have the sight to see. My partner and I have a lawn care business now and if I didn’t have that mindset I wouldn’t have realized I could do it. I’d be at home with my video games instead of having taken the initiative and this club was a big part of that.”
“These students really impressed me and I think at least one of them will be a millionaire in the future,” said Grimaldi.
During the event, Grimaldi read an official proclamation by Thomas P. Gordon, county executive for New Castle County, which stated “all students of the Future Millionaires Club are winners for having improved their knowledge of finance and investing.”
All students then received a certificate for their participation in the club, including: Allison D’Onofrio, Elterich, Jose Garcia, Dan Gomez, Graham, Torey Moore, Neel Naik, Simacek and Zicarelli.
Special awards were also given to students who went above and beyond.
Costantino presented Garcia and Zicarelli with Portfolio Management Awards for their significant involvement in managing their portfolios.
Garcia was grateful for the award.
“A lot of people were invested in helping us further our education,” said Garcia. “I am the first one in my family to graduate from middle school and the club was a really great asset to me. I learned about stocks and how businesses work. I had a class in school but the club allowed me to get more in depth and personal with stocks, so I would really like to thank all those who helped start this club.
Simacek and Elterich were recognized for their win at the Diamond Challenge.
“We created a real time strategy game that is simple but difficult to master kind of like chess,” said Elterich of their entrepreneurial idea.
Added Simacek, “The Diamond Challenge pushed us forward to make it more than a side project.”
In closing, Carlos Asarta, director of the CEEE, said the success of the club was due to the support of a number of groups and individuals, including: Scott Trade, for being willing to open smaller-than-usual accounts for the students to do real trading; the Delaware Department of Justice’s Investor Protection Unit, which provided funding for books for the students; the New Castle County Library, Newark High School and Friends of the Newark Free Library for providing the club with meeting space and putting together the celebration; Rich Jakotowicz, director of the Lerner College Trading Center who met and shared financial insight with the students; Dan Freeman, director of the Horn Program; and JPMorgan Chase and the Delaware Council on Economic Education for financially supporting programs run through the CEEE.
Article by Kathryn Meier
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson