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Nearly 50 seniors from Energized for STEM High School traveled to LyondellBasell‘s Houston Engineering Center in East Houston this week to take part in a personal financial planning and career exploration seminar presented by Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas.
Students from Chavez and other area high schools also participated in the seminars, which reached more than 300 students over four days.
Known as JA Finance Park, the program introduces students to a realistic community where they are randomly assigned a make-believe family and a monthly income. Students visit various stations around the room to gather information for their personal financial decision-making in order to balance their monthly family budget.
Junior Achievement Sr. Capstone Manager Wayne Lutz paced back and forth at the front of the room, encouraging students and reminding them of things they may have forgotten. “You can’t keep that sports car if you plan to have three children,” he said, “because they won’t fit.” Volunteers from LyondellBasell also shared their life experiences and helped students one-on-one as they worked their way through the budgeting process.
“It’s great to see these students learn about real-life budgeting and finance, because this is something they will be dealing with in their lives soon,” said Necole Gibson, Junior Achievement’s vice president of education.
LyondellBasell CEO Bob Patel also addressed the high school students.
“How successful you are at budgeting your money will largely determine if you are happy in your life,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this, or do I just want it?’ Those are two totally different things. If you learn how to live within your means, you will be able to have a family and nurture that family.”
Patel came from India to Ohio when he was only 10 years old. He spoke English because he had studied it in school, “but I had a British accent, and I didn’t fit in. It was tough.” After getting an undergraduate degree in engineering and an MBA, he began working as a vice president. Now Patel heads up LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest plastics, chemical, and refining companies.