Brainerd High School senior Carly Blocker often has worried about what life will be like after graduation.
Could she qualify for her own affordable cell phone plan? What about applying for college scholarships and loans?
It all seemed intimidating.
But thanks to a partnership between the BHS economics program and Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union, BHS students, including Blocker, are now learning real-world personal finance in their economics classes once a week for an entire semester.
While all BHS students are required to take an economics course, usually their senior year, the state-mandated graduation standards do not address issues involving personal finance, such as managing your money and credit cards or applying for car or student loans. No other courses really teach this type of real-world personal finance information, particularly for all students.
"It was something we felt the students desperately needed," BHS economics teacher Dave Borash.
Karen Munsterteiger, director of accounting for Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union, gave a presentation this week about taxes and filing W-2 forms to students in Dave Borash's economics class at Brainerd High School. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
BHS economics instructors Dave Borash and Chris Halverson had been discussing the concept of bringing experts from the community into the classroom for the last few years. But last year Christian Barnett, who works at Mid-Minnesota and is a former BHS economics teacher, and other Mid-Minnesota staffers helped the economics teachers develop this joint venture, which was implemented this fall.
Every week a different guest speaker, either a Mid-Minnesota staff member or someone they lined up, is invited into the economics classrooms to teach a specific topic. Topics have included money management, credit reports, identity theft, loan applications, how to buy a car, insurance, investing, simple and compound interest, taxes and how to rent an apartment.
"It's gone very well so far," said Borash. "The students have gotten information that often the way they'll only learn it is the hard way. This is a goal we've been talking about for 3-4 years and it's finally come to fruition."
Mid-Minnesota staff arranged for Don Griggs from Mills Motors to take a used car to school and show students what to look for when they try to purchase a vehicle. They also talked about the expenses for taxes and licenses.
"It was information I wish I had when I went to buy my used car," said Borash. "So far we've had a lot of parental support. Several parents during conferences asked us if they could attend this classroom."
"I think it'll help a lot," BHS senior Louis Eschenbacher said of the things he's learned about personal finance. "It teaches us to prepare for life when we're on our own. When we learned about credit cards, it showed me how much trouble you can get in by one credit card."
Blocker said she thought it was interesting to learn about how important a person's credit score is and how to maintain a good credit score. She said the program has given her confidence for when she has to deal with financial situations in her life.
"They told us a credit score is like a GPA for life and how to keep it up. And we learned about 401ks, Social Security and how to budget," Blocker said. "I feel like I'm more prepared. I think it's nice that they took time out of their day to talk with us."
Blocker said she planned to keep the information she received during these presentations to help her after she graduates. It's something Borash advises his students to do.
Sarah Speer, Mid-Minnesota marketing and business development specialist who helped set up the guest speakers, said this project was a natural fit for the credit union since they already offer similar classes for its members.
"We thought it's our contribution to the community," Speer explained. "We see a lot of people come in who could have used this in high school."
Speer said in the past, students, particularly those who were part of The Greatest Generation, would learn these types of personal finance skills in high school but schools have gotten away from this, instead focusing on coursework that prepare students for college.
"Most people don't walk into a financial institution until they need it, and it can be intimidating," said Speer. "We want to take out that barrier."
"We applaud the teachers for reaching out and seeing the importance of personal finance," said Mid-Minnesota President Chuck Albrecht in a news release. "Providing this kind of information will make these students better consumers which can only mean great things for our community's future."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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