Catholic school students bank on Fed experience

Rachel Porter served as a board member for a major St. Louis institution before she turned 18.

Last school year, Porter was a member of the student board at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, where she learned about the bank's role in promoting the health and stability of the economy in the United States.

The 2017 Rosati-Kain High School graduate now has a paid internship at the Fed, working in the Information Technology Services department. The experiences have helped her see the bigger picture of how the economy and finances work.

Porter was in an accounting course her junior year at Rosati-Kain when teacher Nancy Mueller told her about the student board program. Mueller was already familiar with the Fed's professional development lessons for educators, and she encouraged Porter to apply.

"I knew when I was looking at colleges, I wanted to study business — specifically accounting, because I like the numbers," said Porter, who plans to attend the University of Alabama, double majoring in management information systems and accounting.

While a career is still off in the distance, she's thought about public accounting or working at the Fed. "I've been meeting with people from across the Fed, and I've especially been trying to meet with people with accounting backgrounds, or backgrounds similar to what I'm been interested in studying in college," she said.

Now in its sixth year, the student board program provides high school seniors a glimpse of future career opportunities in various departments at the Fed. Participants also learn about the bank's role in the U.S. economy and its partnerships with banks, businesses and the greater community. Student board members are expected to share what they've learned with their own school communities.

For the 2017-18 school year, there are 16 student board members, including three from Catholic high schools: Clare Berns from Cor Jesu Academy, Theodore Washington from St. Louis University High School and Daniella Duban from Rosati-Kain High School.

Monthly meetings are held early in the morning, before school starts. Board members have homework assignments, including learning more about the Federal Reserve System and the economy in general, so in turn they will be prepared to have conversations with bank leaders in the board room.

Porter has been most impressed with the wide variety of job backgrounds. "Just seeing it all come together ... kind of takes some that stress off your senior year in high school when you're trying to figure everything out," she said.

In addition to the student board and internship program, the Fed offers more than 400 lessons on economics and personal finance and money via its online Econ Lowdown page.

All of it is part of the bank's effort to "create a pipeline of young people who might be interested in working at the Fed, and broaden the diversity of the pool of folks who work at the Fed," where more than 1,300 people are employed, said Mary Suiter, assistant vice president and economic education officer.

At their first board meeting last month, incoming SLUH senior Theodore Washington rubbed elbows with some of the top officials at the Fed. The board was split into groups, working on an assignment that touched on the basics of the Federal Reserve System and its relationship with regional banks.

"I felt pretty relaxed going into it," said Washington, who plans to take economics at SLUH this year. "I've always liked looking at stocks, and econ really interests me. I thought this was a good opportunity."

Cor Jesu senior Clare Berns would like to study accounting and marketing at school this year. The experience of being on the student board will help her prepare for that, as well as networking with others with similar interests.

She said Cor Jesu helped her balance the work with her studies and extracurricular activities. The experience also taught her how to better present herself and "get out of my comfort zone." 

Resources from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Econ Lowdown, which offers lessons on economics, personal finance and money: www.stlouisreview.com/j2w

Student Board of Directors application page: www.stlouisreview.com/j2d. The deadline for applications is the February before the new school year.

Internship program: www.stlouisreview.com/j2v 

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