Nov 02, 2021

Mission 2030 Guest Post: Susan Miller Wants her Students to Have the Knowledge They Didn't Have in College

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

Susan Miller is an educator at St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Their school is the 37th recipient of the Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Susan describing St. Vincent Mary’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?

When I started at the school 13 years ago, we had a version of a personal finance course for our students. It was an option among all the other electives and it was something that got mixed interest. That was hard for me because it was one of my favorite classes to teach, especially being fresh out of college having this laundry list of things I wish /I had known in high school before college that I didn't know. The course over the years has gone through a lot of changes as teachers and as curriculum. In the last few years, we worked personal finance into the economics class that students could take. This last year though it was very evident the juniors and seniors need personal finance and everything that it entails. It isn't just about writing a check anymore, they need to know how to file their taxes and how to apply for student loans. But more importantly, they need to know how those loans will impact their future debt and credit score moving forward. I approached my principal about making personal finance the focus and a required course and she was all ears. We planned to approach the board at the start of the second semester which is when we needed to get our requirements laid out for next year. With the pandemic shut down, it was a little slower getting things put through, but the board held a virtual meeting which we could utilize to get it approved.

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 biggest issue is determining what age range is the best for the course and how to work it into their other requirements. We decided that it will most likely be second-semester juniors and first-semester seniors so that it doesn't overlap with their final senior capstone at the end of the year.

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

The catalysts for change were my principal and my dean of curriculum. They helped back this idea and I appreciate them going to the board on my behalf.

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

When I first started the class there, the course was under the Business department. The parents were very supportive and as a private school, having parent support is key. The principal has been very supportive as well. Our board is made up of local businessmen and women and I knew they'd appreciate the value that a personal finance class would bring to our students and their success once they graduate.


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