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Ryan Bakutes and Carly Hochron, both 17, are seniors at North Rockland High School and two of 48 students in the schools Academy of Finance. Its an advanced-level, competitive program that offers college credit, mentoring, scholarships and a paid internship. The academy is a member program of the National Academy Foundation and is the only one in Rockland. It was started in 2000 by then-business teacher Pam Schaefer, who has taught in the district for 48 years.

Five questions for Bakutes and Hochron:

Why did you apply for the Academy of Finance?

RB: To get a head start on my college courses and see what the business field is like, see if (Im) interested or not. And not many 17- or 16-year-old high school students have the opportunity to have an internship at such a young age.

CH: Besides other business classes you can take, this is really where you get a lot of knowledge of the financial world in high school.

How did you become interested in business and the financial services industry as a potential future career?

RB: (Im) following in the footsteps of the people in my family who have had success in the financial field and accounting field.

CH: My dad, he influenced me a lot. Hes a business consultant and he also majored in computer science. He said, You know, I think this is a great thing for you to start off with to get a general knowledge of everything.

All Academy of Finance students must complete a six-week, paid internship between their junior and senior years. What was that like?

RB: I worked at Money Concepts, a financial planning business in Orangeburg. They taught me how to deal with stocks and analyze stocks so they can invest money for their clients. Also they set up a new (Client Relationship Management software) program called Redtail so I had to enter information for all their clients so they can access them more easily.

CH: I was a teller at Sterling Bank in Nanuet. I really enjoyed it. It took a little while to get the hang of everything. Its very serious when youre handling other peoples money ... I did a lot of on-the-job training and shadowing the first few weeks and then eventually I got my own box and was able to (make transactions) on my own.

What was the most interesting or surprising part of your internship?

RB: I went in not knowing anything about what financial planning is or what a stock was so I learned all about stocks. (I learned that) I could wake every morning and be a businessman, and go to work and come home, and do that daily commute every day.

CH: It was kind of cool to see how the money circulates. ... Businesses like Rockland Bakery would bring their money in, deposit it. ... Then youd have to secure it in the vault. It was cool to see the other side of banking, not just walking in and going to the ATM machine.