Personal finance high school graduation requirement

April is National Financial Literacy month, and how Wisconsin high school students learn about money is about to change.

In Tyler Podoll’s classroom, he’s the lesson: “I do show my credit report,” Podoll said.  “I show my investment portfolio. [Students] need to understand where money will come from, how credit cards work, how debt works in their life.”

Podoll is a Personal Finance teacher at Milwaukee’s Bay View High School.  He tries to make the course relatable to students by sharing his personal finances with the class.  “The general knowledge they have its great – it’s a sponge,” said Podoll.  “They want more of it.  They ask a lot of questions.”

“[Juniors and Seniors are] a really good age because students are just starting to get jobs and learning to read their paycheck stubs and do their taxes on their own,” said Marti Diaz, Financial Literacy Teacher Mentor at MPS.  “They want our students to be able to compete worldwide and in their communities.  This is a social justice issue and we want to make sure our students have what they need to be successful.”

“He’s helped me see a lot of stuff and learn a lot of stuff,” said Bay View High School Junior Quantavious Stokes of Podoll’s class.  Stokes had a lot of questions for guest-speaker Vincent Wallace-Haygood with the group SecureFutures, who visited in March.

Wallace-Haygood presented Ballin’ on a Budget, to help kids plan for things they want – like new sneakers or phones – and things they need – like an apartment and groceries.  “It’s very understanding – hearing from someone that came from the same city I grew up in – seeing something like that is inspirational to other kids,” said Stokes.

MPS hopes the financial knowledge gained in the classroom is shared when students go home.  Diaz encourages them to start a “comfortable conversation” with parents or guardians about home finances.  Talk about what you each know about credit scores and savings.  Diaz says students should learn from the mistakes and successes of others in the community.  What tips do your parents or local business owners have to help you gain financial empowerment?

Podoll says that education will stick with you: “Writing, math, sciences, social studies – the histories.  They are all really important,” Podoll said.  “But this is going to be your most important class.  It’s going to affect your everyday life.”

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