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NYSE launches interactive student education center

March 19, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ As more mom-and-pop investors pile every day into the stock market, the New York Stock Exchange wants even their children on board.

The largest stock exchange in the world has transformed its dark, gray-carpeted visitors center into a colorful, musical, multimedia tribute to stocks _ hoping to attract investors young and old.

The NYSE’s new $3 million Interactive Education Center, complete with big-screen educational films, hands-on personal computers and the obligatory gift shop, opened Tuesday.

Designed to rival the most up-to-date museums in the world, the center’s purpose is to encourage school children and their parents to invest early and often in NYSE-listed stocks.

The NYSE hopes to move 20 million students from 40,000 schools through the facility, located directly above the trading floor, by the end of the 1998 school year.

``This is a wonderful chance for the stock exchange to educate students,″ Richard A. Grasso, chairman and chief executive of the NYSE, said at a news conference launching the center. ``And of course, we’d like to reach 20 million potential investors.″

The center’s designers learned what any parent or teacher knows, that the way to reach kids today is with color, sound and computers.

A friendly woman who could be your high school math teacher explains on video what the NYSE does, delicately sidestepping the fact that billions of dollars worth of stocks trade outside the exchange, through the Nasdaq Stock Market and American Stock Exchange.

Four wood-paneled, triangular kiosks hold video monitors flashing financial and business news. Telephones transmit information about the more than 200-year history of the stock exchange. Foreign visitors can insert a ``smart card″ with a computer chip to switch from English to their native languages.

Visitors can use one of several computers and punch up financial information on their favorite companies _ as long as they are listed on the Big Board. They can sit in a tiny theater and watch a longer film about the exchange.

They can visit the windowed mezzanine over the trading floor and listen to a taped explanation of the frantic activity taking place in the spaceship-like room below them.

``Anybody know what a mutual fund is?″ quizzed Grace Julian, a teacher at Murry Bergtraum High School in lower Manhattan, who had brought some students to the opening.

The answer from Carmen Tse, age 16, might have been music to the ears of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: ``That’s when you keep your money in for a long time.″

Greenspan has said he is concerned that many of the 110 million individual investors who have lately bought into the high-flying stock market will sell at the first sign of trouble. And the more average Americans like Carmen who invest in stocks, the more damage a market ``correction″ could do to the economy.

Greenspan and the NYSE want nonprofessionals in the market, but they want them there for the long haul. That takes some educating, a mission that Grasso has embarked on with fervor.

``This is our chance to teach people about the American system, the American dream,″ he said. ``That it’s built on savings rather than on consuming, that a young person in this country has no limitation if he’s educated and if the means of capital creation and the creation of wealth are well understood.″

The center is an addition to a roster of NYSE educational programs, all designed to help people understand how capitalism works. The exchange runs a ``Teach-the-Teacher″ a summer program for school teachers and puts out a study guide, available in both print and online versions, for teachers and students. The study guide is designed by Lifetime Learning Systems, a unit of K-III Communications Corp. and sister company to the Weekly Reader newspaper for elementary school students.

The NYSE also helps run the Stock Market Game, in which students are given theoretical money to invest, then monitor their portfolios by keeping up with the latest developments at their companies.

Rhonda Morman, a social studies teacher at the Mark Twain middle school in Brooklyn, said the game is turning more than just her students into potential stock investors.

``Teachers are coming by and asking what the children are buying,″ she said. ``Out of the mouths of babes.″

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