NAF Seniors Leverage Academy Experience to Help Others

Dana Pungello
|
March 24, 2021

Valeria Yepez and Amare Harris have big plans for life after high school. Valeria wants to go to college in her home state of Florida to study international business and eventually travel the world. Amare is ready to spread his wings and is looking at colleges across the country. He has interests in real estate and software engineering. What these two have in common is a shared experience in their NAF academy that has given them the tools they need to be college and career ready and they are already finding success in international competitions and paying it forward!

Through their NAF academy, Valeria and Amare have taken advantage of many opportunities. Their Academy of Finance at Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL participates in Virtual Enterprises International, through their senior class and they created their own business, Succeeding Steps Incorporated, which Amare serves as CEO, while Valeria is the CFO. Succeeding Steps Incorporated helps provide students with resources, including tutors, mentors, and study guides, to help them succeed in college and careers. This project simulates the working world, providing students with opportunities to build skills they will need in their careers.

Valeria and Amare also have qualified for DECA’s International Career Development Conference, coming in 1st and working with students as far away as Indonesia and Brazil. They will also be competing in Virtual Enterprise’s Global Innovation Challenge, one of the world’s most unique business-related events for high school students. Students representing different countries work in multinational teams to solve a pressing global issue using design thinking principles. In preparation of the Global Innovation Challenge, multinational teams of students will meet and collaborate online during February, March, and April. Students will work with mentors who will coach them on strategies to address the problem and develop a slide show, which will be presented to judges at the final event in April 2021. The team has been challenged to develop solutions for communities to combat climate change. They are tasked with using the design thinking process to identify problems communities face in combating climate change and providing solutions that not only help communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also have “co-benefits” that contribute to a better, more equitable world, that also support their prosperity financially and socially.

Valeria and Amare contribute much of their success to their academy experience. “Jefferson’s Academy of Finance has been the core of my high school experience. Through competitions and conferences, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet people from around the world while studying finance,” said Valeria.

Amare actively works to recruit students to join the academy and both students will graduate high school with their Associate’s degrees. “Jefferson’s Academy of Finance has been the core of my high school experience. Through competitions and conferences, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet people from around the world while studying finance,” said Amare.

View Bio

Dana Pungello is the Senior Director of Communications at NAF. She is a firm believer in the power of opportunity that opens doors for young people to endless possibilities. Dana writes about the talent pipeline, student innovations, and the important role employers play in developing the future workforce.