More than 307 students at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix earned their Certification in Financial Literacy diplomas through the Washington Federal Financial Scholars Program in May. The program, which launched at Metro Tech High School in 2013 and provides schools with interactive, web-based financial management education tools at no cost to either the school itself or taxpayers, has now grown to six total schools in Arizona and graduated 1,740 since its inception.
“More than 70% of Americans are uncomfortable talking about money. And while studies suggest that millennials may be better at discussing dollars than their predecessors, our nation’s teenagers still lag behind most developed countries when it comes to their knowledge about money matters,” says Mike Brown, Arizona regional president of Washington Federal and sponsor of the program. “In fact, only one in five teenagers in the United States have basic-level skills about the principles of saving money.”
To help fight this financial illiteracy epidemic, according to Brown, Washington Federal partners with leading education technology company EVERFI, to provide local high schools with this cutting-edge Washington Federal Financial Scholars Program.
“The web-based platform uses the latest in new media technology – simulations, avatars, gaming and adaptive-pathing – to bring complex financial concepts to life for today’s digital generation,” says Jessica Golden, Director of K12 Programs at EVERFI. “The high school course offers nine units that cover a variety of financial topics including credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings, 401k’s and other critical concepts that map to national financial literacy standards.”
The platform uniquely tracks the progress and performance of every student and provides students who successfully complete the course with Certification in Financial Literacy diplomas near traditional graduation time each May.
The program has been such a success at pilot high school Metro Tech that in recent years, in fact, Washington Federal has expanded its programming with the school, thanks to a little inspiration from…Mark Cuban?
“No, we aren’t having the kids plan for careers in the NBA – we work with the faculty who run the school’s marketing classes on a Shark Tank-esque program,” said Brown. “And no, they aren’t thrown into our ‘tank’ on the first day – they are well prepared for us.”
According to Brown, when students come to class the first day, the teacher tells them they have been hired to “intern” for a business, and their goal is to compete in various marketing and financial activities in an effort to “get hired” by the firm. In this case, “getting hired” is a metaphor for acing the class.
“Then, the students take part in units throughout the semester, including pulling from lessons provided by EVERFI, culminating in them presenting a business plan for a new product launch to my team – each of us playing the part of one of the ‘sharks’ from the show,” said Brown, who likens his in-class character to “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary.
Each student’s goal is to convince a banker (or more) from Washington Federal to give their team a loan to pay for the startup of said business and the initial marketing costs.
“We’ve been so impressed with some of these students that we’ve not only offered them jobs, but are willing to hold them the jobs until they graduate so they can focus on their studies first,” said Brown.
To learn more or sign up a school for the Financial Scholars Program, visit www.washingtionfederal.com.