Better Business: New Club, Lab Prepare Students for Real World

By Jack Viscuso ’21

It was Warren Buffet who said, “The more you learn, the more you earn.” While we tend to characterize learning as little more than the typical math and English classes we take in school, the concept extends far beyond textbook knowledge. Mounting student debt, low credit scores, and poor budgeting are just some of the common financial mistakes that even well-educated students in America make every year.

Recognizing the need to prepare its students in all aspects of life, Chaminade has revolutionized its Bloomberg Financial program through the creation of a newly-designed lab and the welcoming of two experts from the business world. Concurrently, two seniors pioneered the creation of the Chaminade Business Club.

Last year, Chaminade faculty member Mr. Gabriel Ramos moderated our school’s DECA chapter. DECA – Distributive Education Chapters of America – is an international student organization that aims to prepare high-school students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management.

“DECA was a pilot program that developed in the entrepreneurship mindset which lends itself towards startups and small businesses,” explained Mr. Ramos. “Since there was a lot of engagement by the members last year and interest in expanding the club beyond entrepreneurship, we decided it would be most advantageous for the students here if we offered an experience that taught about all business pathways.”

Hoping to expand the chapter beyond entrepreneurship, seniors Bennett Newton and Michael Samaritano devised an entirely new series of challenges, invited an extraordinary lineup of guest speakers, and created informative presentations under a new name – the Chaminade Business Club.

“This year, we decided to rebrand the club as the Chaminade Business Club because we hope to gain exposure to numerous aspects of the business world, so we are not restricting ourselves to a DECA chapter,” Bennett explained.

The club held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, October 11 in the new Bloomberg Financial Lab. However, it quickly became apparent that the room would not be able to accommodate the 480 students who expressed their interest in joining. The impressive turnout forced the club to relocate its meetings to Hearst Auditorium, where it will hold its gatherings for the remainder of the year.

One of the first challenges that members will encounter is the Chaminade Lane-Office Venture Challenge, resembling a Shark Tank pitch. Entrepreneurs – in this case, groups of students – will develop and sell their idea for a product. The competition will consist of an initial application, a boot camp stage during which students will learn how to develop their business ideas, and lastly, the semifinal and finals. During these last two rounds, students will have two and five minutes, respectively, to pitch their innovation and company. Generously sponsored by Mr. Gregory Burke of Lane Office, a total of $5,000 in tuition assistance will be distributed through various competitions.

To inspire students’ creativity for this challenge as well as expose them to the characteristics of a successful business leader, Mr. Ramos has secured a remarkable lineup of guest speakers. Some of these include Brian Hughes, a graduate of Harvard Business School and the first General Manager in Honolulu for Uber; Christopher Bates, a professor of finance at LIU-Post; and Dom Atteritano ’91, the Senior Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs at AMC Networks.

While the club’s moderators have arranged for certain speakers, Michael and Bennett seek to maintain an active and dynamic club environment by encouraging members to suggest additional guests who they think might offer valuable lessons.

Although the year has just begun, members have already started to learn how to write resumes and present oneself appropriately at an interview. The club’s presidents offered three leadership positions (Officer of Finance, Officer of Member Development, Officer of Communications) at the beginning of the year to establish a corporate leadership structure that will support the club’s goals. To apply for these roles, members were required to create a resume that highlighted their academic and extracurricular achievements.

With the completion of the Dolan Family Science, Technology, and Research Center in 2018, the existing labs in the main building became available for renovation.

“Once we decided to turn the old earth science lab into the new Bloomberg Financial Lab, we wanted to clearly distinguish it as a different learning space,” explained Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. ’81, President of Chaminade High School. “To achieve this goal, down came the wall that separated the entrance to Powers Hall and up went a full glass wall; down came the various science displays, and up went a state-of-the-art stock ticker.”

The previous Bloomberg Center was located in the library in a relatively narrow space that limited the ability of students to view lessons from teachers in the front of the room. This year, the new state-of-the-art financial lab offers an unbeatable learning experience for students. On the left side of the lab, the aforementioned glass wall provides the opportunity for passing students and faculty to observe the terminals and the students working inside. Along the top, the LED stock ticker continually displays a string of companies publicly traded on the S&P 100. The room also features a two-level seating arrangement so that everyone at a terminal can view the front of the classroom. There, an elevated platform was constructed for teaching purposes, and two 65-inch screens display data and slideshow presentations to the class.

Bloomberg Terminals feature professional computer software systems that provide real-time data for the financial sector – including the largest Wall Street firms. The opportunities they offer for learning are unlimited, as the never-ending, expansive stream of data provides up-to-date information on everything from company financials, the value of currencies, breaking news stories, and market fluctuations.

The new space has already been used by the juniors and seniors who explore various aspects of the stock market and learn about financial literacy during their Bloomberg Financial course. The lab will also serve a prominent role in the Chaminade Business Club.

“Chaminade has blessed us with the ability to use 20 Bloomberg terminals, and we fully intend to make use of this extraordinary opportunity,” Samaritano promised. “These terminals will be essential to helping members research a company for a presentation, find trends for an economic debate, or identify a market for a Shark Tank idea.”

To maximize the opportunity these terminals present, Chaminade has welcomed two experienced business leaders to its faculty.

Mr. Kevin St. Pierre ’85 returns to 340 Jackson Ave. with over 30 years of experience in the business world and on Wall Street. Mr. St. Pierre graduated from Lafayette College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and earned his M.B.A. from NYU. After college, he worked as an engineer at National Grid, a banker with the Bank of New York, and a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton. Then, for the next 18 years, Mr. St. Pierre served as a Senior Research Analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, covering U.S. financial stocks and producing research reports.

His biggest endeavor to date was his founding of KSP Research LLC, an independent equity research provider. Boasting decades of knowledge, Mr. St. Pierre will provide valuable insight for Chaminade’s Bloomberg program and serve as a moderator of the Chaminade Business Club.

“I attended Chaminade, and I sent two sons, who graduated in 2014 and 2018, so I’ve remained close,” said Mr. St. Pierre. “I truly love this place and this community. I’ve come back to help make the world a better place by teaching the next generation of Catholic leaders.”

The other new faculty member, Mrs. Tina Carlstrom, brings her 28 years of experience working in portfolio management, sales, and trading to share with her students. She also had two sons who graduated Chaminade and has worked with a number of Chaminade alumni over the years, so she certainly is already well acquainted with the finer points of a Marianist education.

Mrs. Carlstom first learned about Chaminade’s Bloomberg Financial Lab from a speech Bro. Tom delivered at a fundraising event about the installation of the original 16 Bloomberg terminals.

“When I heard that a high school would be implementing Bloomberg technology into their curriculum, I was shocked. This was technology that I had only previously seen at prestigious universities and in the professional world,” admitted Mrs. Carlstrom.

“The goals for the program are twofold. First off, we have this amazing technology in the Bloomberg terminals that we intend to use every day,” she continued. “We want to make sure the students feel comfortable maximizing the data at their fingerprints. More importantly, our intention is to weave in an understanding of financial literacy so that every student has a better understanding of how money works in the system.”

The combined experiences of Mr. St. Pierre and Mrs. Carlstrom promise to elevate the Bloomberg program and deepen Chaminade’s commitment to offering an unparalleled education – a mission supported in recent years through the implementation of iPads, construction of a STEM facility, and now, the new Bloomberg Lab and Business Club.

“These advances provide our students with opportunities to develop solid financial literacy, and that will serve them for years to come, helping them to become better than they thought they could be,” said Bro. Tom.