Brooklyn High School Students Learn Finance with Real Money

Nickson Frederick
Uncommon Leadership Charter High School student Nickson Frederick proudly holds up his smart phone showing his Fidelity brokerage account with a balance of $656.

As part of an extracurricular program offered at his high school, Frederick was provided $200 to invest in the market in February 2021. In just 21 months, he returned more than 200 percent on his initial investment despite the overall downturn in the market during that period.

“I made some pretty handsome returns,” said Frederick, who dresses the part of a successful investor, wearing a suit and bow-tie to his high school, located in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn.

Students at all four of Uncommon’s Brooklyn high schools have the opportunity to enroll in extracurricular classes after school. Known as High School 2.0, the free program offers a variety of classes, from coding to cooking, dance to sports broadcasting. They are taught by experts in their fields and are designed to encourage students to pursue their passions or discover new ones.

The high schools are part of the Uncommon Schools charter network, which operates 24 schools in Brooklyn as well as schools in Rochester, Boston and Camden and Newark, N.J.

For the finance education program, Uncommon engaged Dan LaSalle, who runs a non-profit organization called Niche Clinic, which teaches high school students about stocks, bonds, credit cards and how to save and invest for the future. It also provides money students can invest in the stock market.

Niche Clinic started in Philadelphia, where LaSalle taught a personal finance class at Olney Charter High School. He got the idea to offer the students real money to invest in the market. His non-profit, which gets funding from a variety of donors, foundations, schools, and partnering nonprofits, now offers the program to 800 students at 14 schools and non-profit organizations.

The program was a perfect fit for Frederick, who has always been passionate about finance. As a middle schooler, he started watching the Graham Stephan Show on YouTube and became hooked on the intricacies of real estate. It inspired him to get a commercial real estate license.

In his junior year, he started a finance club to focus more on understanding the stock market and other investments to build wealth.

“I’m really, really passionate about finance and I noticed that there was a lack of financial education being taught,” Frederick said. “I thought that this was something that should be addressed. So I took it upon myself to create the Finance Club to create an environment where young adults can learn about the importance of finance and use that understanding of finance to make healthy financial decisions.”

LaSalle provided $800 in total to Leadership Charter’s Finance Club, which then held a mock stock market competition to determine which four club members would get $200 in real money to invest in the market.

Of course, Frederick was one of the winners of the contest. Frederick said he already had a pretty good understanding of investing because he started with his own brokerage account when he was 13.

“In order for you to navigate in the world, you need to have an understanding of how finance works,” Frederick said. “Finance is like a blueprint that you can use to build your life in a way that you desire.”

The finance club he founded has meetings every two weeks with a visiting guest lecturer who works in the field. The club has already invited eight guests so far this year. Their last visitor worked at a hedge fund.

“When you think about it, anyone can go on the Internet and just research something about finance,” he said. “But I also like to invite visitors who work in the financial field, to teach us about the importance of finance within their niche.”

Frederick said one piece of advice that he has fully embraced is having a mentor. He met the wife of his eventual mentor at a financial convention.

“I started speaking to her and I told her about my passion for finance,” he said. “We ended up talking for 30 minutes and she told me her husband loves to mentor young kids who are interested in finance. She set up the meeting and he’s been my mentor ever since.”

Frederick has done well in school. He has taken several Advanced Placement classes, including AP Chemistry, AP English, AP U.S. History, and currently taking AP Statistics.

He said he plans to take a gap year and go into commercial real estate with the hopes of making some money before going on to college.

“I definitely plan to go to college, especially for the networking opportunities,” he said.