Some of the best teachable moments come from going on field trips, meeting experienced professionals, working internships, and being involved in competition through student organizations. All of that is accessible at Miami Sunset Senior High through the NAF Academy of Finance.
Sunset’s Academy of Finance, an affiliate of the National Academy Foundation (NAF), is focused on helping students learn about the business world and especially money management. The goal of the program is to see that students have the knowledge they need to be successful as they move on to college and begin life as an adult.
“Being in the Academy of Finance has changed my outlook on life. I learned about many things revolving around the business world like creating my own resume and cover letter. I was also able to experience what it was like to go on a job interview, which led me to getting my current job today,” said Gabriela Mederos, a senior Finance Academy student.
One of the driving forces behind the Academy of Finance is its internship program. It gives students a chance to network with professionals, work with them directly, and get to see what it takes to be immersed in a professional environment every day.
“Internships are an integral part of the academy experience. They give you a chance to learn about a career that you are interested in so you can find out if it’s truly the right fit for you. It provides great insight without having to dedicate too much of your time to go to school for it,” said Terence Williams, the academy’s lead teacher. Karla Leal, an Academy of Finance program completer, said, “The internship was a great experience for me. You get to meet a lot of people from different schools and make connections with new people. They would conduct role plays about what it was like working as a teller in a bank and you were able gain knowledge about providing quality customer service. Things like that are very worthwhile. It’s a pathway that can lead you to getting a job in the future.”
The Finance Academy also runs the Excalibur Credit Union, which is an on-campus satellite branch of the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union. The credit union offers opportunities for high school students to open their own account and learn what it is like to save money and manage their finances.
“It’s a chance for students to be independent by balancing their own budget as an adult would. There are scholarship opportunities in the program and we also even provide discounts on movie tickets,” Williams added.
Students also are able to work in the credit union in Miami Sunset. Juniors and seniors take financial operations as a class and work at the credit union part-time. They get to see the classroom curriculum come to life as they learn about customer service. It also provides a balance between working and learning through the classroom, so they receive the ultimate learning experience.
Williams, who also heads the Miami Sunset work experience program, said, “The Academy of Finance is currently pushing the concept of entrepreneurship. The idea arose because more students seem to be interested in joining the academy based on the idea of owning their own business as opposed to just learning how to crunch numbers.
“Accounting and investments are still a big part of what we do, but now, we’ve added an element that goes beyond just getting a good job,” he said. “This is something where students can learn how to make their dreams come true. Who doesn’t want to be their own boss?”
The Sunset Academy of Finance is linked with the school’s outstanding Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) program, which helps students get more in depth about entrepreneurship and related fields. Through conferences, workshops, and competition, academy students that become FBLA members can improve their overall business knowledge, apply what they learn in FBLA to their classwork, and vice versa.
“The Academy of Finance at Sunset has grown into something where students who want a really good all-around education in business can be a part of and they will end up being very prepared to take the next step, whatever that may be, when they leave Sunset,” Williams said.
Amanda Gomez is a student journalist at Miami Sunset High School.