Corzine, a Hoboken resident and former Goldman Sachs CEO, will be sponsoring the Union Hill High School team, which will compete against other teams nationwide in building solid financial investment portfolios to win a grand prize trip to Washington D.C.
"There is a collaborative project with the SIA and politicians in Washington D.C. to promote financial literacy, and to try to disseminate information about savings and investments," said Corzine.
Since the Virtual Enterprise courses in Union Hill's Uptown Career Academy have focused on investment education, Thomas Steinfeld, course instructor, decided it would be a good opportunity for the students in his class.
"The kids are just starting to learn the nuances of investing, and he's a former chairman of Goldman Sachs," Steinfeld said. "It's not everyday you get an opportunity like this."
The investment challenge
For this year's "Capital Hill Challenge," approximately 29 members of Congress, including Rep. Robert Menendez, are sponsoring teams nationwide. This doubles the amount of sponsors that participated the year before.
Beginning March 2 and running until May 6, the "Capital Hill Challenge" is a competition in the SIA's educational investment program known as the Stock Market Game, which is used in the entrepreneur course at Union Hill. Individuals or student teams are sponsored by members of Congress, and are given a hypothetical $100,000 to invest over a period of 10 weeks.
The program follows grade specific curriculum guides, lesson plans, an online simulation for classroom use, and weekly newsletters for teachers. The grand-prize is a trip to Washington D.C. to tour the nation's capital, and to meet with their member of Congress.
"It's a friendly competition between some of the congressmen [as well]," said Steinfeld.
Since it was first introduced in 1977, more than eight million students have participated in the "Capital Hill Challenge."
"It's exciting," Corzine said. "The kids are very interested, and my job was to introduce them to the base line fundamentals of investing."
Corzine explained about his own humble beginnings growing up on a farm in Illinois, and how he delved into the financial investment world, where he spent half of his career as a bond trader.
The students were given a chart on how to read the stock tables provided by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which highlighted the different sections of the tables and gave brief explanations as to their purpose. Sen. Corzine went on to explain the importance of the stock market, especially in the operation of the American economic system. He also stressed how the stock market plays a critical role in personal financial planning whether you directly invest or not. For example, many Americans have shares in the stock market through their retirement programs.
"You really have to watch the economy, and with investing you have to evaluate each company," said Corzine.
"It was interesting when he talked about [which companies or investments] to focus on more; I feel that was really helpful to me," said Erika Velez, 15, sophomore.
In addition to the stock market, Corzine touched on the topics of bonds, macro-economics, and federal reserves. He also gave the students some tips on what companies to start looking at if they really wanted to get into buying stocks, or which avenues they should pursue depending on what type of investing they are looking to do, such as in bio-technology and pharmaceuticals.
"We've already invested in other companies, now we're analyzing stocks and looking into mutual funds for the program," said John McKay, 17, senior. "He told us the best stocks to look at, and that bonds aren't that good."
After his presentation the students were given a chance to ask the senator questions including how he went from the business world to the political world.
"I consider myself really lucky, and I felt like I needed to give something back," said Corzine. "You have to remember all those people who have helped you along the way."
Corzine will be making another step in his political career as he seeks the Democratic nomination for New Jersey's upcoming gubernatorial race.
The Virtual Enterprise program
The Virtual Enterprise program offers Union Hill High School students the chance to become familiar in the world of business, whether for their own interests or to help others in entrepreneurial endeavors.
"This is my second year teaching in Union City, and I used to be in the investment industry," said Steinfeld, who also teaches World History.
The program runs for two years and consists of two separate, but related courses. The students first begin in the Entrepreneurship course, which helps students understand the fundamentals of starting and operating their own businesses.
"There are certain elements you can learn on managing your money, and become less shy about investing," said Steinfeld.
At the end of the school year students will have developed their own Intermediate Business Plans.
During the second year, students will operate an actual virtual business, which was the group Sen. Corzine spoke to. The Virtual Business course gives students the experience in buying and selling both products and services over the internet with over 3,000 other virtual businesses throughout the world. It gives them real-time understanding.
"We use laptops, play games and have online webpage instruction from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship based in Wall Street and Manhattan," said Steinfeld. "We're one of only a couple of courses here in New Jersey."