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The Enterprise: No clear pattern' to success, Franchot tells Academy of Finance students

It’s what you know and who you know, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) told academy of finance students at Chopticon High School on Friday.

Franchot talked with the 107 academy members about the potential ways to achieve career goals as long as they are smart and can network with people.

The academy pathway offers high school students from around the county the chance to learn more about budgeting, the stock market and other aspects of managing money. With the help of a community advisory board, students can connect with business owners in the region to schedule internships, job experience and build a network to potentially get a job in finance.

Franchot explained to the students that he was not an accountant and never worked in a brokerage firm. “I was an English major [in college] and a lawyer,” he said, adding that he had financial help to attend college using the G.I. Bill after serving in the Army.

He said he was pleased to continue working for the state after being re-elected earlier this month. After absentee ballots were counted last week, Franchot earned 19,567 votes in St. Mary’s, while his Republican opponent, Anjali Reed Phukan, collected 19,463 votes. Franchot said he won the county “not by much” and is the “first Democrat in a long time to win countywide in St. Mary’s.

“Politics is a great way to combine what you learn here [at the academy] and public policy,” he said.

He said he was also glad that some Republicans voted for him, and that some Democrats voted for Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “People are looking at the candidates rather than voting a straight Democrat ticket,” he said, adding, “don’t do that, don’t ever do that.” He said voters should look “at candidates for who that are. … Don’t be robots.”

He said “there is no clear pattern” to a potential career, and advised students to “follow your contacts, your networks, your relationships” in the community.

He said students in the academy know more about finance than their peers, who may be “completely clueless about” how to properly budget their money to purchase a car or other large-ticket items. He said “we want you to grow up quickly, get out in the job market and stay in Maryland please” by either working in an existing business or starting a new one.

Chopticon freshman Sidney Roberson said he enjoys being a member of the finance academy. He raised his hand when Franchot asked if any of the students wanted to be a comptroller. Roberson said he wasn’t sure what he’d do with what he learns in the academy, but he said students should “make sure you pay attention in class and get your work done.”

Chopticon sophomore Mariella Vallejo said she “likes the classes a lot” and learned more about budgeting and “what kind of stocks to buy.” She said she knows more about “when to buy and when to sell” stocks and which might be more profitable.

Cindy Baden, academy lead teacher, said classes are tailored to help students better understand different aspects of potentially working in finance. She said even in English class, students collaborate on business projects and marketing campaigns to “show what they would have to do in the business world.”

Students are also introduced to accounting and how to run a business in a global economy. Baden said students outside of the academy can take a “financial math” class, but other classes for academy students are tailored for careers in finance.

John Walter, financial adviser with the Edward Jones office in California, said he and at least a dozen other community members make up the advisory board that helps guide and connect students with internships, scholarship opportunities and more. He said students "just blossom" while attending academy classes.

"They come out of their shells" with public speaking classes, he added.

Franchot’s tour of the county last Friday also included stops at the Fenwick Street Used Books and Record in Leonardtown and Historic St. Mary’s City. A staff member with Franchot said the comptroller would have the chance to sample bread produced from a new bread maker at the Shop at Farthing’s Ordinary in St. Mary’s City.

Franchot included the high school during his tour of the county after Ellie Brookbank, special assistant to the comptroller's chief of staff, said she mentioned that her younger brother, Sam, was a member of the academy. Brookbank graduated from Chopticon in 2014.

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