Students complete financial literacy program

PORT ST. LUCIE – “Small things add up fast” and “manage your spending” are pieces of good financial advice.

What makes this advice even better is it came from high-school students.

The Allied Health Assisting students at St. Lucie West Centennial High School recently completed a financial literacy program that consisted of 12 modules throughout the school year.

“The subject students wanted to know most about this semester was bankruptcies,” said Elizabeth Durkee, health careers teacher at SLWCHS.

“Hopefully, if they learn now to be financially stable, it will stick with them throughout their adult life.”

The students completed three modules every nine weeks, assigned as homework. They received a grade for each test at the end of each module. The modules covered a variety of different subjects, from learning to use credit cards, to home loans, to understanding a credit report.

The program is offered through the nonprofit Debt Management Credit Counseling.

“We teach financial literacy throughout the state,” said Jason Athas, manager of educational programs at DMCC. “I have been teaching these classes at this school for about seven years.”

Mr. Athas said a common misconception for students is that no credit is just as damaging as bad credit.

“If you have no credit, that is something the credit agencies and banks can work with you on,” he told the class. “If you have bad credit, it takes a lot of work to get the companies’ trust back.”

Even though financial literacy was a topic addressed for years in classes, it was only recently added as one of the performance standards last year by the Florida Department of Education to career and technology classes.

Mr. Athas also made a trip to Tallahassee to showcase the success of this program at SLWCHS.

“I presented this pilot program to the Department of Education,” he said. “They are considering making it a part of every student’s curriculum.”

But Mr. Athas was not only there to hand out certificates of completion, he was there to reward the student with the highest score with a cash prize.

Senior Levi Wesley and juniors Matt Leo, Taylor Ferruggia, Christa Oralus and Holly Alderich tied for the top, with perfect scores. So Mr. Athas made sure they all received the same prize.

“I didn’t know credit was that important,” Christa said. “It’s something I need to pay attention to now.”

“I was interested in how to keep my credit from not going down,” Taylor said. “I know this is going to help me in the future.”

“This class is all about careers in health,” Ms. Durkee said. “Our students know that health careers are one of the stable groups of jobs in today’s shaky economy. But this will help them pay attention to their credit and their spending so they don’t get into trouble later on.”

Debt Management Counseling is a nonprofit that educates consumers on financial issues for free using seminars, workshops and more. The online financial literacy program is available to everyone at no charge. It can be found at Click on the financial literacy icon.