For the young men who invested the day touring the Pacific Stock Exchange and a West Los Angeles brokerage Wednesday, Wall Street yielded an avenue of escape from the gangs, drugs and violence that plague Los Angeles’ inner-city neighborhoods:
“If they weren’t at the Pacific Stock Exchange, I don’t think they would be in a museum,” said George Arterberry, an Oppenheimer & Co. broker who spent the day explaining stocks and bonds to 14 disadvantaged black teen-agers from South-Central Los Angeles.
During a tour that began in an observation room overlooking the Pacific Exchange, continued at Oppenheimer and ended at UCLA, Arterberry and colleagues from a community group hoped to show the youths that pitching stocks and bonds on Wall Street pays off better than pushing drugs on Central Avenue.
“Wall Street is a street where they can walk down and hold their heads up high. Central Avenue is a street that reminds them of poverty and despair,” said Arterberry, who grew up in South-Central Los Angeles and now volunteers for the 101 Foundation, which targets neighborhood youth ages 12 to 16. “I’d like to see them carrying a beeper because they’re needed by clients instead of addicts.”
Although the young men who caught a glimpse of Wall Street all said they’ve resisted drugs and gangs, the 101 Foundation’s organizers note that Wednesday’s would-be traders are vulnerable.
Statistics portray grim prospects for black males in Los Angeles, where they are three times more likely to become murder victims than to be admitted to the University of California.
But through 101 Foundation programs that provide young black men role models such as Arterberry, the group refuses to sell its members short.
“Whatever it is they need, we’re willing to give it to them: shoes, math lessons, counselors,” said Cherie Peters, a co-founder of the foundation.
Since its inception in October, the 101 Foundation, with the backing of four corporate sponsors, has funneled donated music lessons and instruments to the inner-city poor and sponsored a program to revive baseball in the inner city, among other efforts.
Wednesday’s tour was the first in a series the 101 Foundation has designed to acquaint its members with successful black professionals who can offer inspiration, guidance and hope.
“Some of these kids are really very smart,” Peters said. “But they’re not being nurtured.”
As Arterberry explained the bustling activity on the exchange’s floor--"It’s like Monopoly, only for real"--the teen-agers poked ticker symbols into a computer and laughed at traders shooting each other with rubber bands.
Andre Edmondson, a 14-year-old Inglewood resident and Inglewood High School freshman, retrieved quotes on Nike, Reebok and IBM. “We couldn’t find Nintendo,” he said.
Travonte Saltus, 15, a Locke High School freshman, was so captivated he said he would consider trading the cleats of a professional baseball player for the wingtips of a trader. “I’m kind of new at this,” he admitted, surveying the trading floor. “But this is one of those things I might want to do.”
Before the day’s closing bell, the group visited UCLA to tour the key to a Wall Street career: education.
“If one of these kids got up tomorrow morning and asked his dad for the Business section, that would make it all worthwhile,” Arterberry said.