WHRHS promotes Credit For Life Fair to increase Student financial literacy
It’s no joke — come April 1, 2016 Whitman-Hanson Regional High School plans to become the latest school on the South Shore to host a Credit For Life Fair as part of a financial literacy program. WHRHS promotes Credit For Life as a way to increase student awareness of credit scores and the pitfalls of credit card overuse.
WHRHS business teachers have attended Credit For Life Fairs offered at Brockton, Plymouth South and South Shore Regional Vocational Technical High School, where Whitman and Hanson students have been participating in the fairs during their senior year for a half dozen years now.
“We are very happy for the progress that’s being made and we’re very excited because we’ve been trying to do [a Credit For Life Fair] for years,” WHRHS business teacher Lydia Nelson said at the inaugural planning meeting with a handful of parents and educators on Thursday, Oct. 8. “It’s more than time for W-H to do it.”
The next planning meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 in the high school library.
The critical need right now is to have enough volunteers at each of about a dozen information booths to keep nearly 300 students circulating in order to complete the fair between 9 a.m. and noon.
Brockton uses 80 volunteers for its fair.
“We have plenty of time and we’re on target. We just need to ensure we have all the volunteers,” Nelson said. “If the volunteers aren’t in place, then we’re not going to be able to move forward.”
The Oct. 8 meeting kicked off with a YouTube video of a Quincy High School Credit For Life Fair, followed by a discussion of logistics and volunteer and resource needs.
“We’ve been working very hard and this is the year we’re going to get it,” business teacher and DECA Advisor Nina Consolini said of the Credit For Life Fair.
Some of the few parents attending the planning meeting, all of whom now work in jobs involving finance, noted that they graduated high school without working knowledge of how to balance a checkbook, and that little has changed.
“I see people now that … the things they did years ago are kind of catching up with them,” said parent Peggy O’Toole, a financial planner.
“Would any of the kids be allowed to drive without some sort of drivers’ education or some sort of hours? No,” Nelson said. “But yet, we expect our kids to graduate and know how to handle themselves in the financial world.”
The fair generally begins in an assembly during which state legislators and educators speak briefly on the importance of financial literacy and how to fill out paperwork.
State representatives Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, and Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman have already committed to appear as keynote speakers during the pre-fair assembly. Cutler’s district includes Hanson.
Students are provided a fictitious job and income profile, then report to a gymnasium — or, in some cases, a hotel ballroom when the fair is held off campus — where they circulate among stations to learn lessons about budgeting for housing, transportation, insurance, retirement, food and other costs of living. They must balance their budget with the main credit counseling station, staffed by representatives of a partnering bank, before they finish.
That is one of the key volunteer needs for the W-H Credit For Life Fair at this stage. HarborOne partners with schools in Brockton and Plymouth and Rockland Trust partners with SSVT, for example.
Students generally dress professionally, often as a requirement set by the school.
WHRHS Junior Achievement Heroes already sends Business Honor Society members to first and second-grade classes to teach financial literacy. W-H also offers a financial literacy elective, but educators see the need for a broader program.
A bill now before the state Senate — S279 introduced by state Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton — and supported by Nelson could even make high school financial literacy programs mandatory.
“People just automatically think, ‘Well it’s finance, it must be math,’ and that’s not the case,” Nelson said. “The way this bill is written, depending on how the school district can manage it and [national] standards for financial literacy are met, there’s no reason that a district can’t incorporate it into the subject matter as appropriate — in our case it’s business.”
Nelson testified in support of the bill during a public hearing last month.
“Kids are required to take math and English and other courses, but sometimes we forget about financial literacy and it’s a life skill,” agreed business teacher Julie Giglia. “This is a program that can really help if it’s required for everybody.”
Other schools might handle it differently. SSVT, for example organizes the Credit For Life Fair through its Mathematics Department to instill financial literacy. In Virginia, according to Nelson, it is taught across the curriculum.