High school students learn about money and the ‘meaning’ of financial literacy

Back then, high school business classes were monotonous and filled with things that weren’t always applicable to many students.

Now high school graduates are gaining financial literacy with information that will be important for the rest of their lives.

In fact, the state of Iowa requires high school students to take a course in personal finance before they graduate.

Yet North High School in Sioux City teacher Daniel Duncan offered students more in-depth information than opening a savings account and keeping a checkbook.

During his Next Gen Personal Finance course, Duncan taught user-friendly lessons on all types of credit, maintaining a budget, and most importantly, how to pay for college.

“By the time students are in their senior year of high school, personal finance is the first thing they think about,” he explained. “They start the semester with a bit of fear. Then the light bulb starts to go out and the kids see how everything they do today can affect the rest of their lives.”

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Such was the case of Abudi Safi, a 12th grader who had concerns about college.

Interested in attending the University of Iowa or the University of Minnesota, he was taking the personal finance course to see how he could apply for scholarships and grants.

Safi also wanted to be able to play for tuition, fees and books without facing years of debt.

“It’s a big concern for a lot of older people,” Duncan admitted. “Some may even think college isn’t an option because of the expense. If they knew about the wide variety of grants and scholarships available to them, things might seem less daunting.”

OK, what can you do after college? Concretely, how should students position themselves when they enter the job market?

Duncan said the Next Gen program offers guidance for finding the right career path, creating resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles that get results.

Lesson plans also include everything from mock job interviews and learning how to dress for success.

These skills are particularly relevant for Safi, who will be the first person in her family to attend university.

“I always knew I had to plan my future,” he said. “Then I understood that the future is now.”

Duncan can understand where Safi is coming from.

“Some required courses are not relevant for all students,” he explained. “A personal finance course is relevant for everyone, no matter where your future takes you.”

Duncan is not content with learn NextGen. He admitted he learned a thing or two from the program.

“It’s quite common to hear teachers say, ‘Boy, I wish they had offered a class like this when I was a kid,'” he said, shaking his head. “It’s definitely true here.”

However, Duncan said it’s never too early or too late to start on the path to financial literacy.

“I’m just happy that my students are a little ahead when it comes to their personal finances,” he said.

Louis R. Hancock