Mission 2030 Guest Post: Joey Zocher Makes Math Relevant with Personal Finance

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Jun 22, 2021
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Advocacy

The following post is one in a series of inspiring stories from NGPF's Gold Standard Challenge Grant Program which incentivizes high schools and districts to commit to ALL students taking personal finance courses before graduation. Learn more, and apply for your $2,500 to $30,000 Gold Standard Challenge Grant before the August 31, 2022 deadline here.

About Today's Guest Author

Joey Zocher is an amazing educator, teacher-leader, and science and community engagement advisor at Escuela Verde, a public charter high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Escuela Verde's innovative project-based approach and small school size makes her story both fascinating and practical simultaneously. Joey's school is the 43rd recipient of a $10,000 grant from the NGPF Gold Standard Challenge. Here is Joey in her own words describing Escuela Verde's journey to the Gold Standard where ALL students take personal finance before graduation.

Describe a rough timeline for how you and/or your colleagues were able to advocate for personal finance to become a graduation requirement in your school/district. How long did it take? What were the major progress milestones?

I teach in a project-based learning high school in an urban setting where math has often been a tough subject to integrate. Many of our students come to us with an aversion to school in general, and math is typically a least favorite subject. Often, this is because students (and staff) think that math is hard and abstract. For us, making math relevant to students’ lives was the key to getting them excited to learn, and personal finance is the most relevant way to get there.

We began our personal financial journey by requiring a “Budget to move out” project in students’ advisories. This was geared to help them hunt for apartments, buy a car, grocery shop, and do the things they were ready to do as young adults. Shortly after, Educators Credit Union began coming in to teach workshops to warn against predatory lending and plan for college. This led us to realize the need to require personal finance as a graduation requirement.

Our small, independent public charter school has a lot of autonomy, so it was fairly easy to get this added to our requirements. The advisors collectively agreed that it should be a necessary requirement, and we then presented it to our board. They all felt it was a great idea and approved it.

What challenges did you encounter in your efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement, and what solutions did you find for these challenges?

The greatest challenge we had to make this a requirement was deciding if this was beneficial or another obstacle for our students to overcome. We are over 85% Hispanic, have 30% English Language Learners, 30% Students with Disabilities, and over 90% Free or reduced lunch, so our students come with a lot of obstacles to graduation. We want to help them be successful and not add additional obstacles, so this debate was the greatest challenge. Ultimately, we felt this requirement would greatly improve their lives after high school.

What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?

Our partner Victor at Educators Credit Union has been a huge catalyst for us. Our students and staff enjoy working with him, and he has helped us see that learning about finances shouldn't be boring! The credit union also offers our students a free online personal finance course through EverFi, which was helpful while we taught remotely.

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