Mar 03, 2020

Mission 2030 Guest Post: Jim Hatfield of Mt. Vernon High School on when the stars align for Personal Finance

Jim Hatfield is a dedicated personal finance teacher from Mt. Vernon High School in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. In Jim's state, 'Personal Financial Responsibility' is required to be taught in high schools, but not all schools do so with fidelity according to their course catalogs. Jim wasn't about to let that happen in his school, first teaching the course as an elective and recently advocating for the course to become a local graduation requirement. As a result of this change, Mt. Vernon High School became the 15th school in the nation to receive a Gold Standard Challenge grant from NGPF in the amount of $10,000. The purpose of the grant is exclusively to aid MVHS's implementation of the new personal finance graduation requirement. Go Jim!

Here's Jim Hatfield in his own words on how the change happened. 

When did you start advocating for personal finance to become a graduation requirement?

Mt. Vernon High School has actually been working towards requiring our Personal Financial Responsibility class as a graduation requirement for the past 12 years (since the Stock Market Crash of 2008). However, during those years, the class has consistently been offered as an elective for juniors and/or seniors. It wasn't until recently where we made progress toward our original goal.

This past fall, the stars seemed to be aligned for personal finance. Just about every stakeholder - parents, teachers, businesspeople, admin, students - voiced very strong support and backing for Mt. Vernon High School to push forward in adding Personal Finance as a graduation requirement. We'll now be implementing this change beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2020-21!

What obstacles did you encounter along the way?

As for obstacles and resistance I encountered over the past 12 years, I feel we have always had support for the course as an elective, but the primary obstacle to a requirement was that we did not want to add another graduation requirement on top of all the existing required credits. I think there's a feeling in some schools - mine included - that students' schedules are already packed with requirements. However, while that's a valid complaint in a lot of cases, it certainly shouldn't stand in the way of our students building financial skills. The value of those skills alone is going to be well worth the time and effort we spent to push through that obstacle this fall to add a new graduation requirement.

What was the process to get it done?

This fall, the process went like this:

  1. my initial spark came from many positive conversations with students and administration this past fall.
  2. I gathered testimonials from previous students, local business leaders, and parents as to the relevance and value of requiring the class before students cross the graduation stage.
  3. I combined these testimonials into a proposal for a new graduation requirement: Personal Financial Responsibility.
  4. I presented my proposal to the high school’s curriculum and school improvement committees, both of which approved the proposal to move forward.
  5. The proposal then moved to our superintendent's desk and school board for consideration and final approval.


Wondering who else has received Gold Standard Challenge grants? Here's the grantees! 

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