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Skip Pouring the Coffee; SA Interns Grow as Professionals — in High School

What happens when a teenager helps manage a client’s multi-million dollar financial portfolio? What can you expect from a high school freshman tasked with navigating new client relationships? At Merrill Lynch, we’ve set out to explore questions like these — albeit with hypothetical case studies — alongside student interns from Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts. Contrary to common practice, we believe that internships should not be limited to programs offered to college students on summer break. We want to create worthwhile and even life-changing experiences for young students as they navigate both the academic and professional world.

Our student internship partnership with Success Academy is an incredible opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in a potential career path before they even set foot on a college campus. Elite and meaningful internships like these look very impressive on college applications, but they also allow students to become acquainted with a professional environment while sparking ideas for what comes next after college. We believe this is crucial, because too often even college students wait until just before graduating to look to the future — and are then thrust into the workforce with little preparation.  

Our student internship partnership with Success Academy is an incredible opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in a potential career path before they even set foot on a college campus.

At Merrill Lynch, we teach students foundational knowledge of wealth management. As they shadow experts in the field, our student interns familiarize themselves with the pillars of our industry: Business Development, Business Management, Financial Planning, Relationship Management, Investments, and Client Service and Administration. After completing units on each of these, students are equipped with valuable professional experience and an essential understanding of finances.

Both Peter Izzo and I are so pleased to work alongside Success Academy to provide students with outstanding opportunities in and out of the classroom. We take immense pride in shaping the next generation of brilliant professionals, and hope one day to have an alumni group of Success students whose experience with us helped inspire their careers — and who, in turn, can encourage future generations of Success Academy interns.  

Here, current and former Merrill Lynch interns offer inside looks at their experience with us, while another Success Academy student shares what he learned interning with 300 Entertainment.


Jordan’s first day on the job

Jordan Burt, 9th Grade, Current Merrill Lynch Intern

I started my internship in March, after my College Access & Persistence counselor suggested I apply because of my interest in debate. The two topics might not seem related, but actually we’re asked so many economics questions during debate competitions. I was excited to build financial expertise to support my debate goals, while also gaining valuable experience in a professional office.

It’s important for high school students to participate in internships because these can actually help prepare us for some of the major things we’ll need to do in college. In college you’re transitioning to the next stage of your life, and you need to figure out how to interact with new people, how to make money, and what to major in. This internship has been one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve had because it’s helping me think about these things and it’s preparing me for what’s to come.

As one of my assignments, I worked as a financial advisor and had the chance to interact with an actual client in a mock meeting. The experience gave me a taste of what these grown businessmen and women actually do for their jobs and I wasn’t too bad at it myself! It made me feel comfortable that I have a lot of great options in my future. I would definitely be interested in wealth management as a career; I really enjoy it.

One key thing that I learned is to always remain professional. Whenever I’m at my internship I put in my full effort, whether trying to absorb the information, repeat the information, or apply the information. Especially in a business setting, I want to make sure that I have a strong image and that I carry myself at the same level they would expect of their other employees.


Aminata with Peter Izzo and Frances Litvak after successfully completing the final project

Aminata Kane, 10th Grade, Former Merrill Lynch Intern

I was really excited to discover that this internship wasn’t just about the numbers; almost everyone I worked with had minored or majored in psychology. Academically, I enjoy math but love psychology, so finding out that there are ways to combine the two into a career was really helpful and exciting. As financial advisors, everyone needs to know the emotional elements involved in investing and saving. Some people have children that they are thinking about, others like to plan for retirement, and the advisors need to know how to best understand the mindset of each client so they can help them. I think this is my number one career preference now.

It was fascinating to be interning at the time that Donald Trump became president, because there were a lot of questions that came up in the investment world — the phones were ringing off the hook. I learned how current events can play a major role in the day-to-day work of the financial advisors, who had to reassure and explain to clients what exactly was happening.  

Success Academy places a lot of emphasis on preparing us for the “real world,” so it was also really helpful to see how the speaking skills and professionalism that we work on at school really are essential at the office. I wanted my final project to be perfect, but we worked very independently, so I had to figure out on my own how to achieve the best results. In the end, I think they were impressed that I was able to take what I had learned and make a sophisticated financial portfolio for a client.


Elyjah reminiscing on his internship

Elyjah Pellew, 11th Grade, 300 Entertainment Intern

I make music and I’m passionate about pretty much everything to do with music, so I was really excited when my College Access & Persistence counselor suggested the internship at the record label 300 Entertainment.

I think the other interns were surprised to see a high school student joining them, because they were all in college. I didn’t want them to think I was just someone who would do the bare minimum and leave at the end of the day, so even though I was younger, I wanted to make sure I did the same amount of work as everyone else. Whenever there was some downtime, I would get up and ask the employees on my team how I could help.

I asked questions about the interns’ college experiences while also learning from the experts in the industry, and even meeting some of the artists! I had the chance to be involved in so many different projects, like when I gathered positive quotes about Young Thug’s new album for them to use in a promotional presentation, or brainstorming on how to best engage a younger audience from a marketing perspective.

I was also in charge of managing the logistics for a conference in California. I had to book the hotel rooms and make sure to apply the correct company credit cards for each purchase. At first I found it challenging to be in an environment that really requires you to think for yourself — there’s a lot of room for error and it felt a little bit like taking risks because I had to go with my instincts, and I couldn’t ask for reassurance on every little detail. I just had to go for it, which taught me about how adults experience the working world.


Celebrating incredible internship experiences, from left to right: Jordan Burt, Peter Izzo of The Izzo Group, and Bria Couliboly (9th grade)

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