Alumni Spotlight

Since the first Magnetar Academy Team Challenge in 2013, the event has added new elements each year, and this year we were proud to have another first: a Magnetar Academy alum returned to speak to students.

Lilly Martinez participated in that inaugural Team Challenge four years ago, when she was a junior at Golder College Prep. Now a junior at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she spoke to this year’s Team Challenge participants about the her experience in college, and how she has applied lessons learned from the Magnetar Academy both in school and in life.

It was exciting for us to see one of our alumni thriving in college, and it was eye-opening for this year’s participants to see a living example of how financial literacy can help them in the future. With that in mind, we are spotlighting Lilly and two other Team Challenge alumni, catching up with where they are now and learning about how they have continued to utilize their Magnetar Academy experiences since graduating from high school.

Lilly Martinez

Lilly’s speech at the Team Challenge was equal parts educational and inspirational. She spoke about how she has leaned on financial literacy principles in her college career, especially after her mother encountered serious health challenges.

“From the moment I made a choice on where I was going to go to school, I had to more adamantly start making smart choices that would not land me a more difficult living situation,” she said. “My mom passed away before I got to finish my first semester in college and I couldn’t really afford to be spending money on trivial stuff. I got a job on campus and I set out to make sound financial choices.”

She also spoke about following your passion. Lilly interned at Magnetar Capital after her freshman year of college, and found her communication skills improving through the internship. She recognized that she had a passion for communication, and became a journalism major, with an intended specialty in “strategic communication in public relations.” She now serves as vice president of communications for the campus organization Business Badgers and Beyond, and works at the Badger Herald — the nation’s largest independent student run newspaper — as a reporter and associate editor.

Finally, she offered her insight and advice to this year’s Challenge participants as they prepare for college themselves.

“Financial literacy develops awareness to make good choices in everyday situations [and] it’s important to learn these principles early. When you go to college, you will have more independence and will be making many decisions without a parent by your side.”

“You can decide to eat out every day of the week, or waste money on a shopping spree when you know a new semester is starting and you need to buy books. Decisions like these affect our lives — often long-term. Protect yourself and your future by learning how to manage your money and make good decisions.”

Gabriel Muhammad

Gabe participated in the 2014 Team Challenge as a student at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and is now a junior at Iowa State University, studying Economics and Ag Business. Gabe has stayed involved in trading, using a simulated trading platform in one of his courses this semester and obtaining an internship this upcoming summer with ADM in Decatur, IL as a commodity merchandiser/trader.

Gabe knew a bit about the trading industry in high school, but the Team Challenge taught him lessons that he has used throughout the past three years, and still utilizes today.

“I learned that the level of advancement in the trading industry is competitive and there is a lot of opportunity to create profit based on volatile worldly events and the performance [of] hundreds of thousands of companies,” he noted. “In my everyday life I use these lessons from the competition by studying how various markets fluctuate and the industries that create everyday products.”

While he recognizes the importance of everyday financial literacy principles — such as saving and investing — that Magnetar Academy teaches, Gabe also sees great value in opening students’ eyes to potential new career paths.

“I would tell [high school students] to try and stay interested and active in the business and trading world, because there are innumerable careers and opportunities to really earn profit, just how the Team Challenge features. Also, from my experience it is helpful to always ask questions to people who are in these positions and who have ample experience because they can generally [offer] a plethora of insight.”

Daniel Mielnik

Like Lilly, Daniel attended Golder College Prep, and was a member of the class of 2014. While his school did not find success in the Team Challenge, it ended up being an important event for him.

“Funny enough, the most memorable moment in the Challenge was my team getting last place,” he said. “I loved it! I knew at the time I had not fully solidified any conceptions on how to model market outcomes effectively. It was a random guessing; however, it began to push me to most importantly want to understand how markets functioned.”

That journey continued as Daniel obtained a scholarship matching him with an algorithmic trading firm, where he learned about modeling and theory versus application. Daniel is now a proud Quaker at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a junior majoring in economics, with concentrations in finance and accounting.

For Daniel, everything ties back to core theme of Magnetar Academy’s curriculum: financial literacy.

“As cliche as it sounds, I did not want to work for money but wanted my money to work for me. As a low income student, it was difficult to watch my parents struggle financially, yet it was far more difficult to not have a solution. The solution is financial literacy.”

Lilly, Gabe and Daniel are just three of over 1,000 Team Challenge alumni who are already using their Magnetar Academy experience to positively shape their lives. They aren’t all going into the trading industry, but all three of them are following their passions and using financial literacy principles in different ways. We’re proud to see how they’ve continued to grow since high school, and we’re excited to see an ever-increasing number of high schoolers follow in their footsteps over the upcoming years.