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Gainesville State students to compete on world stage
Free Enterprise team among five from U.S. traveling to Berlin
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Students from Gainesville State College who have “a head for business and a heart for the world” will be one of five U.S. Students in Free Enterprise teams traveling to Berlin in October for the 2009 SIFE Capital Markets Summit.

Students in Free Enterprise is an international non-profit organization that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize college students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders, said Katie Simmons, chairwoman of Gainesville State’s business division and faculty adviser for SIFE.

“Their mission is to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business,” Simmons said.

Five teams from China and five teams from France will join the five American teams at the summit which celebrates the winners of the Goldman Sachs Foundation Teaching Capital Markets Special Competition.

“This project was a special competition sponsored by Goldman Sachs to encourage SIFE teams to develop a way for college students to teach high school students about capital markets,” Simmons said.

The competition requires students to form teams and apply business concepts to develop outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in the community.

The 10 Gainesville State College students who worked on the capital markets project created a 40-page student workbook and used it to teach students at West Hall and Johnson high schools about capital markets.

SIFE team member Stephanie Martin said the workbook was divided into chapters such as real estate, taxes, stocks, mutual funds, bonds and savings. A game at the end of each chapter tested students’ knowledge of the material, Martin said.

The high school students in the capital markets class were given tests before and after the course. Gainesville State’s SIFE team was selected as national winners based on the high school students’ performance, Simmons said.

Martin said she feels it’s imperative that high school students learn more about finances before they’re unleashed into the college realm where credit card companies often reel in students who know very little about finances and credit.

“I went to college like, ‘What the heck is credit?’” Martin recalls. “The financial part of it — I don’t think schools are stressing it enough.”

Recent Gainesville State graduate and SIFE team member Juan Llanes went to a SIFE conference in Dallas, Texas, to learn how to teach high school students about capital markets. That helped him initiate the high school capital markets program at Gainesville State.

Llanes has been in the United States for less than four years, but he said he’s already learned that being smart in business translates to financial stability and a productive future.

“No matter what career you are in — either computers, medicine, whatever — whatever you do, I think business is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world,” he said. “And especially for high school students who are about to start a college career, a new life after high school. I think it is important for them to understand the simple terms of capital markets which is stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate. They need to learn about all of those.

“I wanted to teach them about all of that so they’re not like me when I got here. I was like what is stock? What is all that about? And I think a lot of high school students are like that.”

Although Llanes is transferring to Georgia Tech this fall, he said he hopes students at Gainesville State continue to develop the capital markets high school program.

“I want people there to get pumped up about it, because it still needs work,” he said.