Bill Granville was a bad kid.

Growing up in the slums of East Trenton, N.J., in the 1950s, he nearly flunked out of school, led a neighborhood gang and spent several nights in jail. A certified juvenile delinquent, he was about to be sentenced for his role in the trashing of a high school when he got a second chance.

Taking an interest in the troubled teenager, a guidance counselor kept Granville out of prison and in school, switching his course load from shop classes to college preparatory courses. Granville cleaned up his act, discovered an aptitude in math, became the first kid in his neighborhood to go to college and went on to a successful career as an executive at Mobil Corp.

Now Granville is helping a new generation of teenagers move from the mean streets to Wall Street.

For the past seven years, he has run an ambitious program in Trenton called the Granville Academy. It's an after-school program that coaches small groups of students from lower-income backgrounds on the fundamentals of the business world. Now, with Mobil's move to Fairfax from New York last summer, he's expanding his program to the Washington area.

"I wanted, coming from that world, to share that experience," said Granville, 49, the executive vice president of Fairfax-based Mobil's international consulting services division and one of the oil company's highest-ranking black executives. "It's sort of a Head Start program for many of these kids who wouldn't have gotten the exposure to this kind of thing from their parents or in the inner city."

The first class of 37 local students, chosen from junior high schools in the District and suburban Virginia, this week began a schedule with meetings every other Tuesday night through next spring. The program gradually takes on more sophisticated topics as the students continue through it until they are ready to go to college.

In addition to 16 class sessions a year, the academy sponsors field trips to stock exchanges and other business locations and holds a formal graduation ceremony and other social events. The program also helps youngsters get summer jobs and internships at corporations.

The Granville Academy classes are led by local business people who donate their time. While there are other local programs that aim to give minority youths positive role models, the Granville Academy is focused on introducing kids to the business arena and demonstrating that there are avenues out of the inner city that are more positive than drug-dealing and more realistic than professional athletics.

"These inner-city young people have to know that the sky's the limit for them," Granville said. "A lot of kids out there just need somebody to take an interest in them."

"I think programs like this are so desperately needed," said Beverly Coleman, a health care consultant who is running the local Granville Academy operation. "A program like this ... for young black kids that have traditionally not been part of the traditional economic mainstream is important for where we're taking this country."

The Granville Academy is about more than just teaching dollars and cents. What it's really preaching is dollars and sense. The academy works with the youngsters on basic study skills, life planning, personal grooming and self-confidence.

"One key thing out of this whole thing is that we don't care if these kids go into corporations or become entrepreneurs," Granville said. "We want them to grow up to have control of their own affairs and be an asset to this country and not a liability. ... We're trying to get these kids to start having self-confidence so they start attributing their successes and failures properly."

"It kind of focused me in the right direction," said Tyrone Richardson, a junior at Morris Brown College in Atlanta who was part of the first Granville Academy class in Trenton. Richardson, who said he was a good student even before attending the academy, hopes to become a lawyer.

Another former academy student, Paul Burroughs Jr., said the program "was very useful to me. ... It gave me an insight into what business is all about, and it led me to my career in accounting," which he is studying as a sophomore at Trenton State College.

The first group of Washington-area students was chosen from applicants solicited by the organization in local schools and churches. Although the program is open only to students in the District and Northern Virginia, the academy is hoping to open a Baltimore branch within the next year or two to include Maryland youngsters. Each branch is affiliated with a college or university; the one in Fairfax is housed at George Mason University.

The academy attempts to limit enrollment to around 35 youngsters in each class. In the first year, the students learn about such basics as financial statements, accounting principles and the role of computers and technology in business. In later years, the students are given deeper exposure to business, including such topics as capital formation and taxation and office automation equipment.

"You're introducing them to a language, much like I learned Swahili when I went to Kenya and lived out there for Mobil for three years," said Granville, who has held posts around the world for the company. "We do it in a way where the kids have fun." The participants are given small rewards for their performance, such as calculators, radios and $2 bills. The program is largely funded by individual and corporate donations.

Granville, who has developed the program over the past seven years with input from educators and business people, conceived the academy -- which is named in honor of his parents -- on long plane flights to Mobil facilities in the Middle East in the early 1980s.

He said he envisioned the program as a way to expose inner-city youth to opportunities that might otherwise be foreign or seem unattainable to them.

"A lot of things that are happening in the program are a direct result of my experience and others who know what's happening in the inner city," Granville said. "It's just a matter of letting {youngsters} know that there are far more gains" to be had by pursuing a career in business.

"We think we've got a better chance at being able to stimulate some excitement in them about the kinds of things they can do for themselves," Coleman said.

In setting up the academy, Granville said he realized that his success in overcoming his background and making it in the corporate world could be an example. "There are only a few of us in corporations of inner-city backgrounds who have really made it," said Granville, who describes himself as one of the "Jackie Robinsons" of corporate America, being among the first wave of blacks recruited into corporate management in the early 1960s. "I've had a very good career with Mobil. I think it's a message."

Former student Richardson agreed. "Mr. Granville, growing up in the ghetto, he gave me that push and incentive that I could go on even farther."