STAMFORD — Teron Haughton was once a standout high school basketball player who went through the motions of life as a teenager.

But Haughton said while he was a student at a Bridgeport magnet high school he realized his ability to lead and persuade players on the court could be cornerstones of a successful future career.

Haughton said those same qualities he discovered as an adolescent are still useful in his job as a marketing manager at Legg Mason, where he helps finance professionals find ways to promote mutual funds to investors.

“Look at the things you are good at and ask yourself why you are good at those things,” Haughton told a room of Stamford High School students last week.

“You don’t need to pick a career path now, but I challenge you to think about what you are good at.”

The group of 18 Stamford High students took a field trip to the global asset management firm last week as part of the Stamford YMCA’s College & Career Readiness Summer Institute. The program, which includes visiting corporations, cultural and educational institutions and other destinations, aims to give students firsthand exposure to the college environment and potential career paths.

“The world is changing, we do things much different even than we did five years ago,” Haughton told the students.

The students spent more than an hour touring Legg Mason’s marketing and sales department on the fifth floor of 100 First Stamford Place, where employees discussed their jobs that included sales training, marketing and selling investment products.

The program has also taken the students to Thomson Reuters’ New York office, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to the Broadway production of the “Lion King” that included a workshop with actors after the performance.

Ravyn Akins, a 16-year-old Stamford High student, said the visit to Thomson Reuters and an encounter with a female journalist opened her eyes to media and communications.

“The only aspect of journalism I ever thought about was writing, but I learned there were so many more aspects like digital, video and they need people for those jobs,” Akins said.

Drew Denbaum, a Westhill High English teacher who is the director of the program and arranged the field trip itinerary, said the summer months allow for the group to spend more time participating in enrichment activities to better prepare for college and careers.

Denbaum discusses the field trips with students during morning sessions at the University of Connecticut-Stamford. To encourage the students to examine how they form perceptions and beliefs, Denbaum uses the framework of System I and System II thinking from the book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by social scientist Daniel Kahneman. The system helps students improve their engagement and critical thinking skills, he said.

Students are working with the local chapter of Toastmasters to develop public speaking skills.

“People are often unaware of why they think about things the way they do,” Denbaum said. “I tell students, ‘Anything I can do to make your generation better at focusing and higher-order thinking than previous generations, that's exciting to me.’”

The $50,000 cost of the eight-week program is funded through a 21st Century grant from the state.

The group will spend three days next month in Washington, D.C., where the students will tour the offices of Rep. Jim Himes and Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal.

Widline Thomas, a 15-year-old Stamford High student, was surprised by the number of job opportunities at Legg Mason. Thomas said she’s interested in business and finance and considers herself an “assertive” person.

“I think I’m good at thinking creatively and I know what I want,” Thomas said. “I want to be successful.”

mcassidy@stamfordadvocate.com