Our initiative, which helps high school students from underserved communities broaden their career opportunities, celebrates its third year with its biggest class ever.
Adrian, a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, hopes one day to have a career in finance, something he’s dreamed of for much of the time he spent growing up in New York City.
In high school, he read business publications voraciously and learned as much about the real estate market as he possibly could. But none of that quite prepared him for JumpStart, an eight-week, immersive program that helps high school students from underrepresented communities develop their knowledge of the banking and financial services industries, find mentors and gain access to educational resources that might otherwise be out of reach. “It’s not every day a high school kid like I was could speak directly to people who work at Morgan Stanley,” he says. “Hearing from people with 30 or more years of experience in the business was very eye-opening.”
The JumpStart Program was created by Morgan Stanley in partnership with LEAD (Lead, Education, and Development), a nonprofit that works with high-potential youth from underserved communities. The program provides a wide-ranging, stimulating curriculum that gives participants—known as scholars— insight on financial matters, such as the difference between private equity and venture capital, what “shorting stocks” means and what goes into successfully launching an initial public offering. It also provides more practical skills, such as financial literacy and networking.
Along with attending virtual lectures, JumpStart scholars take part in small-group sessions with Morgan Stanley Associates and Analysts, learning about their experiences working in businesses such as Investment Banking, Fixed Income, Institutional Equities, Research and Global Capital Markets. “It showed us what our future could look like, regardless of our background,” says Emma, a recent alum, who is studying operations research and financial engineering at Princeton University. “The program allowed me to make connections not only with people my age who will also be going into finance, but with mentors who can guide us through the process of entering a world that can seem daunting at first.”
Many of the JumpStart alums, like Adrian and Emma, have already taken the first step, going on to enroll at top colleges, and three of them—Danny, Spencer and Immanuel—used the skills they learned to run a software company they had founded with the support of LEAD. The synchronized platform allows students to access educational opportunities like the one they benefited from. Called Synced, it is now being used by Morgan Stanley to recruit and onboard other JumpStart applicants.
The original concept for the program came from Evan Damast, Managing Director of Global Capital Markets at Morgan Stanley. During the summer of 2020, Damast offered to help connect a client’s daughter with his colleagues to discuss a potential career in finance. After making the introductions, he began to wonder if there might be a way the company could use its resources to also help young people who didn’t have the same organic network his client’s daughter had.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could take the talented Analysts and Associates who work for us and help them serve as mentors or role models to some young folks who may be less plugged in to the Wall Street community, or are perhaps more diverse in their backgrounds than the average person on Wall Street,” Damast says.
Working together, LEAD and Morgan Stanley created a curriculum around a set of weekly themes calibrated for students specifically interested in a career in finance, as well as more general topics for those wanting to work in other fields. In addition to Finance 101, these included College and Career Development, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Networking in the Age of Technology and Navigating the Corporate Culture.
Participants—seniors in high school—join each nightly session remotely, and you’d never know they’d just logged eight hours of class and homework before signing in. “They’re go-getters,” says Sarah Wolfe, an economist with Morgan Stanley Research who has been involved with the program since it started over two years ago. Wolfe currently serves as a facilitator, helping plan the curriculum and leading one of the virtual classes, and she’s been so inspired by the students that she’s asked to put together a challenging new course for next year: Econ 101. She can’t wait to teach it. “Working with the next generation of leaders is so exciting and energizing. I’m as eager to go to class as they are.”
With help from facilitators like Wolfe, the program continues to grow: 120 students nationwide are participating in the current cohort, along with 50 Morgan Stanley Analysts and Associates. According to Melissa James, Managing Director and Vice Chairman, Global Capital Markets, working to increase financial literacy across a more diverse population was a natural fit for Morgan Stanley. “One of the issues we are trying to address is the disparity in wealth that exists within many underrepresented minority groups,” James says. “Increasing financial literacy among those groups and helping them become knowledgeable enough to build and create wealth is an important part of closing that gap.”
And while it’s possible that some of the students who participate could eventually end up at Morgan Stanley, the ultimate goal is about much more than recruiting. “The way we will define success, in my opinion, is by making a difference in the trajectory of each student in the program—and that’s not necessarily by joining Morgan Stanley,” Damast says. “That could mean getting into the college of their choice because we helped build their resume. It could mean helping to connect them to the sector of their dreams. Whatever it is that the students want to accomplish,” he says, “we are going to do our best to make a real difference.”