Finance Students Head Back to High School — This Time As Mentors

In the finance world, there’s a lot going on in April. It isn’t just that time when people rush to file their taxes before the deadline, it’s also Financial Literacy Month, a time dedicated to programs and initiatives that teach people more about personal finance. JWU students have been a big part of this effort in Rhode Island, and last week six of them were honored at the State House for their work with the Financial Literacy Youth Initiative (FLY).

JWU finance students honored at the State House for their work with the Financial Literacy Youth Initiative (FLY).


Cameron Ponce ’19 led the JWU team, who served as mentors to students from Classical High School and Central High School. Along with Ponce, the team consisted of Brandon Kauffman ’19, Timothy Sullivan ’20, Christopher Behen ’19, Joseph Simasek ’20 and Alexander Liang ’21. They dedicated time to mentoring six high school students to prepare them for Stock Pitch Rhode Island, a competition in which high school students utilize and test their investment skills in a financial analysis. College teams from several universities around Rhode Island also took part in mentoring at other local high schools.

All of the teams gathered in the beautiful State House Library, surrounded by an impressive three stories of archival records. They were greeted by Alfonso Cumplido, program chair of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society of Providence and developer of FLY. Cumplido commended them for their efforts in mentoring local youth and getting them interested in finance. State Treasurer Seth Magaziner also stopped by to congratulate them on their work and talk about his own efforts to improve financial literacy in the state.

Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner speaking to students.


“There is great work already being done in Rhode Island around financial education with a number of individual schools and teachers doing amazing work, but this is something that all Rhode Islanders should have access to,” Magaziner said. “We have a great piece of legislation in front of the House and the Senate this year to do that, which involves providing resources to all teachers so they can be supported in teaching this material.”

The key speaker for the day was Kurt Winkelmann, Ph.D. He comes with an impressive resume as CEO of Navega Strategies, former global head of research at Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), former managing director at Goldman Sachs and member of the Investment Risk Advisor Panel for the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He discussed his experience in the finance field and answered several questions from the crowd.

After the presentation, the team had time to reflect on their mentorship experience on the marble steps of the State House. “It was definitely a learning curve to be mentoring high schoolers,” said Ponce. “It forces you to work on your communication skills, because you have to think back to when you were their age and how much you knew so you could put things in terms that they could understand.”

Students in front of the State House.

“We weren’t there to do the research for them, but instead give them guidance on how to do the research, what questions to ask themselves and the things they should be looking for within the companies,” Kauffman added. 

They met with the students three times before the competition to guide them with choosing a company to research, valuation models and other information they would need to build a stock pitch. 

"It was a goal of ours to spark their interest in finance."

“All six of the students we mentored were female, which was kind of cool because there aren’t many female students pursuing finance,” Ponce remarked. “So, it was a goal of ours to spark their interest in finance so they would hopefully want to pursue it as a career.”

However, it appears they did more than just spark their interest. One of the student teams from Central High School, mainly mentored by Liang and Ponce, took first place in the competition and will represent Rhode Island at the 2019 Young Investors Society (YIS) Global Stock Pitch Competition in New York City.

Students inside the State House.

Students at the library.