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February 16, 2009

GOAL Event Slated to Help Students

By James Ramage

One nonprofit is hopeful that the weak economy won't frighten away philanthropic buyside and sellside traders.

The education program, GOAL-which is short for Giving Open Access to Learning-will hold its sixth anniversary benefit party on March 5. And some traders are literally getting into the act.

The event will feature a rockin' battle of the bands. Musicians include traders from Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and LaBranche Financial Services, among others. Several raffles will also be held, including a big one for a Mini Cooper.

Lisa Kelly, GOAL's co-chair and co-founder, as well as a sales trader at BTIG, is optimistic that this year's event will match past successes. "These kids depend on this funding to keep their [after-school] program going."

Donations support GOAL's structured after-school and weekend programs. They teach about 60 underperforming city children the value of education and critical thought, and help them build confidence.

The programs and activities are designed to improve academic performance, according to GOAL co-founder, Jeff Kaplan, a partner at hedge fund Deerfield Management. But they extend well beyond books and calculations.

"These kids are really missing out on some of the most critical things that they need to learn, things like how to be resourceful, teamwork, critical thinking skills, the empowerment of giving back to the community," Kaplan said. "We're teaching these kids how to value the quality of their lives, rather than just be able to learn how to pass a statewide math or reading test."

In addition to general operations, donations will help GOAL's 2009 efforts, which include debate training and a water well project in Uganda, Kaplan added.

"Debate is a really good way for kids to harness their energy and their knowledge, and become knowledgeable about a certain subject," Kaplan said. "It teaches them how to deal with conflict through discussion, rather than dealing through fighting or yelling."

GOAL has a full-time presence in two New York City schools: PS 171 and Central Park East, both in East Harlem. Its after-school and weekend program serves children in third through eighth grades. GOAL also runs a summer camp based around life experiences, Kaplan said.

The program lets instructors-who are drawn from the two schools-design their own curriculums. GOAL complements the foundation the children build at school by teaching independent thought, resourcefulness, how to use the Internet, how to speak respectfully to adults and how to land a job.

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