Local students studying Wall Street up close

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Four Vicksburg students are taking a comprehensive, inside peek into the world of Wall Street.

The four are members of the Mayor’s Youth Council, which was invited to the Youth About Business Leadership Development Program, which offers monthly training workshops and summer business camps.

“I’m proud of them,” Mayor Paul Winfield said. “They’re really sharp, young people.”

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The program was established in 1992 and is based in Nashville. Marie Thompson, city director of policy and youth council coordinator, said programs are especially tailored for students who do not have business classes in high school. There is first-year basic camp and second-year advanced camp. “This is a way to develop leaders,” she said.

The Vicksburg team was the only city in Mississippi to be invited. “The camp was a competition,” Thompson said. “Then each month, we’ll go to training workshops in Memphis, where the students will learn about business presentations.”

Students from the Southeast region met June 14-18 at Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta to participate in a five-day mock merger and acquisition competition. “We learned about supply and demand, the Peter Principle, the difference between public and private companies,” said Daniel Kees, 14, a junior at Vicksburg High School. Daniel held the role of chief executive officer of their team’s company, which was Cablevision.

His brother Joshua, 16, a senior at VHS, served as the chief financial officer. “I didn’t think working with numbers was going to be hard, but I found out later it was,” he said. “We now have a better understanding of how business works. We now know why they showed us some things.”

Daniel and Joshua are the sons of Janice Kees and the late Dr. Stewart Kees.

Two other students who joined them were April Mayfield, 16, a junior at Warren Central High School, and Hunter Johnson, 17, a senior at St. Aloysius High School.

“I have a lot more respect for people who work in business,” said April, the daughter of David and Estella Mayfield. “I learned a lot through the program.” She held the position of chief of marketing.

“It was a good opportunity,” said Hunter, who served as the chief operating officer and chief human resources officer. He is the son of Bud and Valeria Johnson. While the Vicksburg team had only four participants who were chosen based on schedule and interest, another student, Frank Williamson of Atlanta, was placed on their team to complete their executive board. Students, who were all required to dress in business attire, logged more than 70 hours of simulated work. All the students on the Vicksburg team said they had no prior business training.

The Southwest district held its summer camp at The University of Houston in June, the Midwest district met last week at The University of Chicago and the Northeast district will meet at Columbia University next week.

The summer camps will culminate with the Wall Street Conference on July 17-23 in New York, where students from all districts will meet with the CEO of Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks basketball team to learn about the basketball franchise, as well as watch an exhibition game. They will also tour companies on Wall Street in the city’s financial district.

The travel and activities’ cost of the year-round program for the four students is estimated to be $15,000, and will be paid by local businesses. Four businesses that have already donated to the program Ergon, Golding Barge Line, Walmart and Faith Christian Center.

Thompson said her travel expenses will be billed to the city, but may also be paid retroactively pending funds raised through business subsidies.

“So far, we have raised about 25 percent of the funds we need,” Thompson said. “It is up to us to continue to raise dollars to sponsor this program, not only for this year, but for the future.”

She said organizers allowed for the Vicksburg team to participate regardless of the lacking funds. “My goal as a coordinator is to have an entire team go into 2011 fully funded,” Thompson said.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, was formed in 2009. It has 11 students from VHS, WCHS and St. Aloysius.