By JD Hoye, President, National Academy Foundation.
Balancing a checkbook, creating and sticking to a budget, and setting up a savings account — these skills are vital, and with Financial Literacy Month upon us, it is crucial that we think about how not to just make the time to teach these skills, but reflect on how to do it in a way that engages students beyond the theoretical.
The National Academy Foundation (NAF) is focused on preparing high school students for life after high school, and NAF academies take on this mission whole-heartedly. Through course work, projects anchored in actual industry problems, and work-based learning experiences, students develop skills that will help them succeed in college, careers, and their everyday lives. NAF academies use their business and community partners to bring financial literacy concepts to life. Here are some great examples:
- Many NAF Academies of Finance across the country partner with local credit unions to create student-run branches on their campuses. These credit unions give students the opportunity to learn banking functions on the job while providing access to banking to their fellow students and school staff. Students who work in these credit unions teach other students the importance of saving their money and budgeting and how different loan products work.
- In Miami, NAF academies run a program call Mad City Money, in which students are each given a different life scenario. They have to create budgets based on the specific circumstances they are given and try to plan a life for themselves without going over budget. One significant aspect of Mad City Money is the involvement of local businesses who “sell” students imaginary material goods and services, such as cars and furniture, and help them think through the consequences of their purchases. Mad City Money gives students a chance to connect what they are learning in the classroom to what they will be facing once they get into the real world.
- Several NAF finance academies partner with the IRS and local community groups through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). This program provides free tax prep training by the IRS and certifies students to become tax preparers. The students then participate in the program by preparing taxes for low-income families. The students who participate in this program are learning valuable skills that benefit not only themselves, but the communities in which they live.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to teaching students financial literacy, but there is one common thread in each of these approaches – the important role business and community members play in providing context, leadership, guidance and inspiration to students. With the involvement of the community, students will be able to apply the skills they’re learning in the classrooms to real world situations, which gives them a better understanding of how to manage their own finances – a skill they can take with them for the rest of their lives where ever they go.
Follow NAF on Twitter at @NAFCareerAcads.
CEE note: We are pleased to partner with NAF to strengthen NAF’s Academies of Finance and ensure all students receive a financial literacy education that they deserve. Learn more here.