NU Hosts 270 High School Students for Day of Workshops, Stock Market Challenge Kickoff

March 1, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

  • NAF

    Monte poses with Stock Market Challenge participants while hoisting the coveted Niagara Cup.

  • Hutton

    Professor Ed Hutton introduces students to the Stock Market Challenge.

  • Bourdage

    Etiquette expert John Bourdage instructs students on how to make professional introductions.

  • NAF

    NAF students go through a role-playing exercise during the professional etiquette workshop.

  • Alegre

    Professor Mitch Alegre gets animated during his presentation on leadership.

  • NAF

    A trio of students attempt to balance a stick in the palm of their hands during the leadership workshop.

More than 270 local high school students  convened at Niagara University on March 4 to take part in workshops on business leadership and etiquette, and compete in a new stock market challenge that’s based on real-world results.

The seven participating high schools are members of the National Academy Foundation, an organization that develops industry-focused academic curricula and work-based experiential learning opportunities to prepare young people for college and career success.

Each of the high schools that were on campus – Barker, Clarence, Lake Shore, Lancaster, Lewiston-Porter, North Tonawanda, and Orchard Park – maintains an NAF Academy of Finance. The academies connect students with professionals working in the areas of financial services and personal finance, and offer courses on banking and credit, financial planning, global finance, securities, insurance, accounting, and economics.

This marks the second time that Niagara University has held the day-long program.

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“The directors of the academy programs came to us last year to find out if we could help teach their students the soft skills needed to succeed in business and in college,” said Christine Schwartz, associate director of continuing education at NU. “By the time the program concluded, the NAF directors expressed their enthusiasm for us to do it again in 2014.”

Like last year, the students engaged in workshops on leadership with Mitch Alegre, a business professor at NU and coordinator of the university’s EAGLE program, and etiquette with John Bourdage, a graduate of the internationally renowned Ivor Spencer School for Butler Administration and Personal Assistants.

“The workshop on etiquette was a real eye-opener for many of these kids, who obviously aren’t used to eating in a professional setting,” said Barbara Converso, principal of Barker High School and one of the event’s primary organizers. “I can say some of these things until the cows come home but when they hear about dressing appropriately or the risks of texting and social media from college administrators, it really gets through to them.”

New to the agenda were 45-minute sessions that introduced students to finance professor Ed Hutton’s “Stock Market Challenge.” The competition requires students to test their business knowledge, logic and reasoning by buying and selling virtual stocks from the Standard and Poors 500 over a 10-week period. The students were divided into teams and will track their progress using a password-protected software program.

To help them make sound decisions, the students will use online research tools and news sources such as the Wall Street Journal. Student-mentors from NU_Finance, Niagara University’s Finance and Economics Club, will visit teams at their respective high schools several times during the competition, which concludes May 9, 2014.

“We would like the high school students to understand how the stock markets work by engaging them in an exciting inter-high school challenge,” remarked Hutton. “By completing the challenge, students will understand the way stock trading works, and how prices of stocks move in response to changing information, such as economic news and company performance.”

Winners will be announced the week of May 12, at which time the winning high school’s name will be engraved on the Niagara Cup. The victorious school will retain possession of the Niagara Cup until next year’s challenge.

“Numerous studies have shown that investing in stocks is a necessary part of any long-term investment plan,” Hutton said. “By participating in this exercise, students will become familiar with the operation of the stock markets so that they can use that information in their own investing.”

“The experience really makes such an impression on all of the students,” Converso said. “Being on a college campus, working with university professors and seeing the other high school students – I think it really crystallizes why they wanted to join the academy in the first place.”

Niagara University’s College of Business Administration features a nationally recognized finance program, and is accredited by the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). Niagara offers an undergraduate degree in finance, an MBA degree with concentrations in finance and strategic wealth management, and a new M.S. in finance. To learn more about the College of Business Administration, please call 716.286.8050 or visit