Friday, May 22, 2015

Dunwoody High School Academy of Finance preparing future business leaders by Steve Fortenberry

One of the most important missions that a high school has is to properly prepare our students for the ever increasingly competitive global workforce.

The Dunwoody High School Academy of Finance looks to fulfill this mission and graduate students who are focused and ready for the challenges that await them. The DHS Academy is a two year program (11th -12th grades) in which students are exposed to many facets of the business environment. It is likened to a “mini” MBA, as students take courses in corporate finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, personal finance, AP macroeconomics and international business. Further, the course is heavy in group projects, team competitions, and interaction with many local business leaders that sharpen the students networking skills. It is a program that provides students with unique experiences and a real world curriculum that allows them to begin to focus in on their potential career path.

The Academy is in its 16th year at Dunwoody. Teaching is a second career for me, having left the business world after 10 years to pursue my passion of teaching. I returned to my alma mater to establish the Academy of Finance after the parent organization, the National Academy Foundation, selected Dunwoody High School to have an Academy. It started with a small group of students in 1999, and has now grown to an Academy that has 95 juniors and 90 seniors.

The class is heavy on project based learning and the students are part of a number of group competitions in which they will compete against their peers. Projects range from establishing an NFL franchise to starting and designing a restaurant to developing a new product and giving a 90 second elevator pitch. Also, the students are to start their own business in the community. There were a number of strong Internet businesses started in this school year. The final competition has the students selecting a Fortune 500 company and developing a business plan for a brand extension into a new industry for that firm.
Examples from recent years include Samsung developing an app allowing young diabetes patients and their parents to better monitor their health and Under Armour starting a line of women’s athletic and hygiene products. All of the competitions are judged by business leaders in the community which raises the stakes for the students and also allows for networking and relationship opportunities take hold as the students follow up and meet with the leaders after the competition.

For example, with the NFL franchise project, members of the local media, as well as executives of the local teams, including the Falcons and Hawks, came to judge the competition. Students loved interacting with media members like Bob Rathbun, Fred Kalil, Brandon Leak, Jason Pullman, Matt Chernoff and Kendyl Moss.

The Dunwoody High School Academy of Finance is a program that has provided many unique experiences, sharpened career focus and developed leadership skills.

One of the best parts of the job for me is seeing so many former students enjoying great success in their chosen career.

The Academy is looking to continue to grow and add new experiences and student run business opportunities in the coming school year.

 Steve Fortenberry is director of Dunwoody High School Academy of Finance. This item was originally published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

1 comment:

Adam Freedman, Dunwoody PC, LLC said...

I have heard so many great things about this program. I hope that when my boys attend DHS, they have the opportunity to take part.

Adam Freedman
Father of Robert and Luke, DHS Class of 2020