Sep 07, 2021

Mission 2030 Guest Post: Melissa Johnson Turned 9 Weeks of Personal Finance into a Graduation Requirement

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

Melissa Johnson is an educator at Willow River Area School in Willow River, Minnesota. Their school is the 86th recipient of the Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Melissa describing Willow River’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?

September 2019: Begin teaching a new version of Service Learning/Senior Strategies (9 weeks of personal finance)

October 2019: Attend FinCamp in Minneapolis (this is my second FinCamp attended)

December 2019: Invite Superintendent and/ or Principal to visit the class and participate in the activity.

January 2020: Lessons for Life Event: In preparation for the event, students will choose a career cluster area and level of schooling they hope to complete after high school. They will also prepare a resume for this field. Once they enter the gym that day, they will meet with “human resources” to interview for a job and learn their monthly salary, marital status, number of children/ pets. Next, students will be asked to rotate around and visit booths that will be staffed by local businesses. Booths will require students to make decisions in real-world areas such as bank accounts, retirement savings, insurance, health care, housing, transportation, communication, child care, surprise life occurrences, etc. based on their monthly salary and family needs.

June 2020: Submit Mid-term Report to NGPF

October 2020: Present to School Board with hopes for preliminary adoption of the requirement

Spring 2021: New Course (full 18 weeks of personal finance) offered to juniors and seniors (original plan was fall of 2020, however, Covid 19 Pandemic delayed our efforts.

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 had a challenge in our efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement because we have a district service-learning requirement that we needed to separate from the course to make it a standalone requirement. After this small obstacle, we were able to move forward.

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

William Peel and Bryce Rushmeyer were the catalysts for change at our school. Without their efforts, we would not have been as successful as we are today.

Which stakeholders (students, parents, admin, business leaders, school board, etc) were helpful partners in your quest to make the graduation requirement happen?

We had many stakeholders that were very helpful in our quest. For one, our Students' interest in the material. This is very important because if they don’t like the material, it would be harder to teach it. Our other helpful partners were the parent requests, the admin, and the school board support.

About the Author

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