It was a professional exposure you'd never get as a high schooler. Having the opportunity to ask questions at that age was huge.
Author: Erika O'Shea
Published: Thursday, 24 Sep 2020
Close your eyes and think back to September of 2012. Facebook had recently gone public in May. The London Summer Olympics concluded just weeks ago. The hit song “Gangnam Style” by South Korean singer Psy was on its way to the USA and would shortly top radio request lines and iPod playlists. In the halls of Mill Valley High School, Hawkeye Mitchell was learning the ropes of high school life as a new freshman student.
As he sat through his first classes, young Hawkeye pondered his future career path. Soon enough he uncovered a burning passion for business and finance when one of his teachers incorporated Junior Achievement curriculum into her class syllabus. “We dove into markets and that’s when I found my interest in the brokerage industry,” Hawkeye remembered, “The next year I opened up my own brokerage accounts when I was a sophomore.”
Taking what he learned from his JA economics classes, he leveraged money he earned at his after-school job to grow his understanding of investments, “I was working almost 30 hours a week at subway as an assistant manager. All my extra money I’d throw into my account and trade!” He was captivated by the intersectionality of finance within his everyday life, “Of all the areas in business, finance seemed to be a central point in our world as a capitalist driven society. I found myself driven to understand it at a deeper level.”
His quest for knowledge was given direction by a JA volunteer who visited his class. “Scott Phillips came in and talking to him helped a lot. He’s in private equity.” Hawkeye reflected on the impact this connection made, “It was a professional exposure you’d never get as a high schooler unless your family knew someone personally. I’m still in touch with him and we get coffee occasionally. Having the opportunity to ask questions at that age was huge.” Part of his high school business classes’ curriculum was to take what they had learned in JA and put it into practice through a student-run storefront “The Catty Shack,” named after the school mascot, the Jaguar.
Hawkeye laughed saying, “Talk about hands on! It brought the textbook and the hands-on experience together. When you put what you have been learning into practice, it solidifies how things work.” Being part of the project gave him pseudo-celebrity status amongst his peers. “Of course, no one got paid, but everyone knew who was working in the school business.” He emphasized, “EVERYONE knew who those people were.” More than just an ego boost, the business was real work. “We didn’t just sell things. We broke down the finances behind it too. We created our own merchandise. We put together marketing campaigns and promotions.”
Some things his group learned were tangible, like how to manage customer traffic, “We were open in the morning, during lunch, and after school. It was cool to see what our peak times are and what that meant for the business itself.” Other things were less visible, but even more important. “Running the school business gave me confidence. The confidence to communicate with people in a professional setting. The basic concepts are so rudimentary to the world around us, yet many do not get much business or financial acumen. To have that from JAKC plus the additional hands on experiences gave me and my peers an extra confidence boost knowing how the world around us operates.”
Throughout high school, Hawkeye’s circle encouraged his journey as his dreams became more defined. “My teachers and friends continued to fuel me. After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to be in business and maybe even start a business someday. Junior Achievement is what helped ignite that entrepreneurial spirit.” Fast forward four years from 2016 to 2020 and Hawkeye finds himself at the next crossroads of his career. “I just graduated from Fordham University in New York with a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance with a concentration in Business Law and Ethics.”
The JA alum’s plans for his first post-college job fall in line with his high school dreams. “I’m starting full time with HSBC in their corporate bank, rotating through desks within the global liquidity and cash management business." What looks a little different is his first office, “I’m supposed to be in New York…that’s my home office. Because it is all virtual right now, I am working from home in Kansas City.” Ever with his eye on the bottom line, he finds a silver lining to the change, “It’s ok though. I can save a lot of money living with my parents.”
Junior Achievement played a major role in helping set Hawkeye up with the tools he needed for success. He hopes that JA champions understand the part they have to play in the success of their community, saying, “There are a lot of potential business leaders and youthful, new perspectives out there. If you can foster that energy and passion at a young age, you’ll see that reward when they’re applying for jobs at your company.” He pushed further, “It’s a long-term horizon. Investing in minds early on pays off big later when you see those professionals coming into your doors.”