Through student input, St. Vrain adopts financial literacy into graduation requirements

In this era of credit cards, PayPal, online shopping, and sophisticated marketing, many parents feel challenged to instill a sense of financial responsibility in their teens.
 
However, it was not parents, teachers, administrators or school board members – but last year’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) which was the driving force behind the district’s new Financial Literacy requirement.
 
“I have always thought it was something that should be implemented. I feel like a lot of high schoolers say, ‘I was never taught how to do my taxes but I know how to do calculus,’” Chase Wille, SAC member and Lyons High School senior, said.
 
The SAC, consisting of several upper-class students from each high school, meets monthly for presentations by district staff before forming breakout groups which deliver feedback to the school board.
 
“Students brought the need for a stand-alone financial literacy course forward, and a couple board members and our superintendent committed staff to explore the topic and draft a proposal,” Jackie Kapushion, area assistant superintendent, stated. “Students made a very compelling case as to why they needed to spend more time on the financial literacy standards - which was difficult to do when delivered in their social studies courses.”
 
For students, the process has been gratifying.
 
“Seeing the financial literacy presentation today, it was like ‘oh cool,’ I remember talking about that last year – it has become an actual thing, it is being acted upon,” Rachel Oliver, Niwot High School senior, said.
 
“Students in my group chose to make it a requirement because there are so many awesome electives. If it were just an elective, not many students would take it. We did not want them to miss out,” she said.
 
Katie Huonder, Erie High School junior, is also happy with the outcome.
 
“I’m really excited for the financial program to be implemented. I feel it will help everyone understand how the world works outside high school. Students who do not have a job outside school never get the experience, they just get thrown out into the world when they graduate. 
 
They are kind of on their own,” Huonder said.
 
A pilot version of the course, which is required for the class of 2021, launches this fall at Skyline, Frederick, and possibly Longmont high schools, Jenny Pettit, social studies and secondary literacy coordinator, said. Replacing existing electives, the half-credit class will not increase graduation requirements.
 
“Before, it was just a unit in the U.S. Government class. The standards are the same, but now we can go into more depth,” Pettit said. “I think it is great – students need more education in personal financial literacy. We know that if kids understand the content when they are young, before they head off to college and start using credit cards, they are much better consumers.”
 
Offered as business electives at some schools, the course was developed in partnership with Elevations Credit Union, Colorado Council on Economic Education, and University of Northern Colorado economist Dave Aske. It covers money management, financial planning, credit and debt, and risk management.
 
“I really think this is a story about student input and people listening. Financial literacy is the product,” Paula Peairs, school board treasurer, said. “These kids know what is going on, in my opinion, even more so than parents. They are in it. We need to be listening.”