Visit from my mentee

Amey Stone

Today I met Yohaira Pena, a junior at Morris High School in the Bronx, and my new mentee. McGraw-Hill (parent of BusinessWeek), runs a program that matches employees with high school students. Yohaira is interested in the Web and journalism. She just showed me how to program my instant messenger with new icons (I chose a goldfish) and wall paper (the ocean). Next visit she promises to help me set up my own personal web page on AOL.

Yohaira also taught me some things today that are relevant to the subjects I cover -- investing, personal finance, and the economy.

For starters, think about the economic implications of what she told me about her school. Although she is in a small, innovative program, she says it is totally "dysfunctional." There are 45 students in her class, she has had to repeat the same coursework several years in a row, and she fought for a year to start a student newspaper before abandoning the idea. She respects her teachers, but says students hold so many side conversations that she often has trouble hearing the lesson.

She is well aware that the education she is receiving in her New York City public school (located in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the nation) is far less rigorous than teenagers in many foreign nations receive.

Yohaira really had no idea what investing is all about, although she recognized that it is a frequent topic on the news. I attempted to explain a stock, mutual fund and the S&P 500 to her. She seemed to get an inkling of the idea and was eager to learn more.

The good news: Yohaira is very Web savvy. She doesn't have a cell phone, but she has Yahoo and AOL email addresses, an instant messaging handle, and a personal web page on AOL. She may not be learning as much as it seems she should in the classroom, but she is learning a lot online -- and those skills should serve her well in the future.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.