Mission 2030 Guest Post: Jonathon McKenney Gives Students Practical Life Skills Through NGPF
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
Jonathon McKenney is an educator at The Sycamore School in Arlington, Virginia. Their school is the 101st recipient of the NGPF Gold Standard Grant for making personal finance a graduation requirement. Here is Jonathon describing Sycamore’s journey to the Gold Standard!
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?
The school had offered personal finance for the past year, but it was one elective among many that students could choose from. It was only in this past year that the school decided to make it a graduation requirement, along with a Career Exploration elective offered in the second semester (also using resources from NGPF). The shift to personal finance becoming a requirement took place over the summer of 2020, with discussions among the administration, the math department, and the elective teacher. One major milestone was finding the NGPF program, as it gave a solid structure to a previously more free-form class. The second milestone was the positive feedback from students taking the pilot program of the required personal finance course. All students, including incredibly shy students, were engaged with the subject matter and enjoyed the course.
What challenges did you encounter in your efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement, and what solutions did you find for these challenges?
We have been incredibly fortunate, in that the administration team and school board were all on board, and, to an extent, drivers of the shift to personal finance becoming a required course. The closest to a challenge we had was a discussion about making it a required course when a large part of the school's philosophy is freedom of choice for students. This was overcome by deciding that a personal finance and career preparation course is applicable for all students, regardless of the path they choose to take. Additionally, it contributes to the practical life skills that The Sycamore School teaches students.
What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?
Dr. Karyn Ewart, the head of the school, and Mrs. Julie Diefenderfer, the head of the math department were essential to this change. They were the catalysts who shifted personal finance from being one selection among many to the graduation requirement that it became.