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Program Brings Students Right To The Trading Floor

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Big Shoulders Program

These students get firsthand experience in investment and trading as part of the Big Shoulders Program. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Some kids who might not ordinarily get a financial education are now passing by the rest of us with all they know about big business today.

As CBS 2’s Steve Bartelstein reports, for many of us, a classic scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was our first look onto the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

But thanks to the Big Shoulders Program, young people today get the real version. Unlike in “Ferris Bueller,” where Cameron mimics the floor traders’ hand signals without a clue what he’s doing, the Big Shoulders students got a lesson in what the hand signals actually mean.

“It’s like a sign language for money,” said eighth grader Caitlyn Asama.

“It’s hard to describe, because it’s like its own thing,” said eighth grader Deron Williams. “It has its own language; it has its own feeling to it.”

That feeling gave us the feeling we were talking to the movers and shakers of tomorrow.

It all begins with industry professionals such as Jim Hoeg of Citadel Asset Management, who not only antes up time, but also his own money.

“Each of the teachers is asked to donate usually $3,000 to the school, and the kids invest it on their own,” Hoeg said. “It’s 100 percent picks that are generated by the students.”

If you think this is just kids’ stuff, think again. The students are a stock-savvy lot.

“We pulled up different stocks and we checked on each one and how they were doing, versus like 2008 to 2010,” Williams said.

There is no playtime or play money here.

“They have vested interest. They have skin in the game, and it gets pretty heated,” Hoeg said.

Two stocks that are doing particularly well are Hershey’s – which they picked in anticipation of higher chocolate sales close to Easter – and stocks in bicycle makers, with the anticipation that bicycle sales will go up due to rising gas prices.

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