College-bound high school seniors from across New York City received their first introduction to the world of public finance on Wednesday, when they attended a special bond class organized by The Municipal Forum of New York and Futures and Options.

Held at the SIFMA offices in Manhattan, the Class of 2017's Urban Leadership Fellows, the program provided all-day schooling in municipal bond basics to the students before they go off to do their summer internships at financial institutions and public entities around the city.

The Municipal Forum of New York chooses and sponsors students for the program who are interested in public finance careers and who excelled in the Forum's rigorous academic selection process.

NYC Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, D-East Harlem, speaks to Urban Leadership Fellows.
NYC Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, D-East Harlem, speaks to Urban Leadership Fellows. Chip Barnett

Celebrating 25 years, the ULF program was created in 1992 to introduce students to the municipal securities industry. It provides a paid, mentored summer internship for graduating city high school seniors who are interested in careers in finance. The program places the students at banks, law firms, rating agencies, and public authorities across the city.

Since the program began, over 90% of the Fellows have come from families with household incomes under $75,000 a year.

It is financially supported by the Forum's annual fundraising dinner and provides paid summer internships and college scholarships to graduating seniors. Each Fellow also receives a book grant. Alumni who meet GPA requirements can earn partial college scholarships for up to three years.

Tim Martin of NYC Comptroller's Office, welcomes Urban Leadership Fellows.
Tim Martin of NYC Comptroller's Office, welcomes Urban Leadership Fellows. Chip Barnett

New York State Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, D-East Harlem, told the students the internship program "is a really great opportunity...a chance to learn about the industry and a chance to build your career. It’s about being able to participate in funding the growth of the city."

Wednesday's speakers also included Timothy Martin, assistant comptroller for public finance in the New York City Office of the Comptroller and Caroline Cruise of Loews Corp, both member's of the Muni Forum's Board of Governors; and Jay Olson, Assistant Director at the New York City Office of Management and Budget and Sarah Lum, a senior analyst at NYC OMB.

Additionally taking part in the program were Mike Jang of Citigroup and Jane Weisenberg of Citi; Gloria Boyd of NYS Homes and Community Renewal; Lina Yip of S&P Global Ratings; Jamiyl Flemming of Wells Fargo Securities; Meghan Polis of Drexel Hamilton; and Rich Lopatin of Acacia Financial Group.

Futures and Options, a nonprofit educational organization, was represented by Cameron LeBlanc.

This year, the Muni Forum and the New York City Housing Authority united to let high school students who live in public housing about the ULF program with the goal of increasing the amount of internship applicants.The partnership was announced at the Muni Forum’s annual ULF fund-raising dinner on May 10.

In the past few years, about 12% of applicants for the ULF program lived in NYCHA housing. The Muni Forum asked NYCHA to form a partnership to market the program to students with the goal of increasing the amount of applicants who live in public housing.

Jay Olson, Assistant Director at NYC OMB, engages students at bond school.
Jay Olson, Assistant Director at NYC OMB, engages students at bond school. Chip Barnett

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Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett is a journalist with more than 40 years of experience. Barnett is currently Senior Market Reporter for The Bond Buyer.