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Corporate Gift Boosts Academy

New Program Offers Students New Skills

The T.C. Williams High School Academy of Finance received a boost from Citygroup last month with a corporate gift of $3,000.

"We are very pleased to be involved with the students in the T.C. Williams Academy of Finance and to be able to assist them in this way,” said Sheila L. Saunderson. Along with Citygroup’s CEO, Sandy Lyles, she came to T.C. Williams to present the check for $3,000. The money will be used to start a student-run credit union next year.

“The donation is very important to our program because it will allow us to offer the students practical application of the skills that they are learning in Academy classes,” said Natalie Parker, director of the Academy.

The Academy is a new program at T.C. that began just this year. The concept is to offer students three years of specialized courses in finance beginning in their sophomore year.

“Our goal is to develop an interdisciplinary program that will include business math, economics, business English and, of course, one finance course each semester,” Parker said. “Since there are only a small number of students in the program, we can offer individual support to them.”

THIS SUPPORT COMES from members of the Academy’s advisory board, which includes representatives from corporations such as Marriott and business institutions such as Devry Institute. Board members provide tutoring, PSAT and SAT preparatory courses and seminars on business-related topics. During senior year, Academy students enroll in a college-level course. Between their junior and senior years, the students participate in a six- to eight-week paid internship in a local business.

Students who are interested in the Academy must apply and are interviewed by Parker and a member of the Academy’s advisory board. “We require them to dress in business attire for the interview and to conduct themselves just as they would if they were interviewing for a job,” Parker said. “When they finish the course, we want them to be prepared for either an entry-level position in a business or to attend some type of postsecondary educational or vocational institution.”

THE ACADEMY IS designed to accept a maximum of 30 students each year. “We have to keep it small so that we can provide each student with the kind of support that will make this a successful program for them,” Parker said.

The academy concept is a brainchild of Citygroup’s CEO. About 20 years ago, he recruited high-school interns and was dismayed at their lack of understanding of the corporate world. He began the first academy program at a school in New York City, and the concept has grown. There are two academy programs in Virginia that are part of the National Academy’s Foundation, the one at T.C. Williams and one in Gloucester County. Parker started both of them.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer the Academy of Finance to students,” said John Porter, the principal at T.C. “The courses offer students an opportunity to learn about business, economics and international finance. We can’t say how successful the program will be at this point, but we believe that this is a good way for students to learn and may offer some students a greater likelihood of success in school because of the small class sizes and the individual attention that they receive.”

The credit union will begin next school year. “It will give the students who run it an opportunity to learn about banking as a business and the students who save money there an opportunity to learn about budgeting,” Porter said.

The credit union will be a branch of the Alexandria City Employee’s Credit Union and will be open to both students and staff.