Students complete financial literacy program

PORT ST. LUCIE – “Be frugal with your money,” “Don’t dig a hole of debt” and “There’s good credit cards and bad credit cards,” are all pieces of good financial advice.  What makes them even better is they 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.

Jason and Student during seminar


“The economy has hit this county hard,” said Elizabeth Durkee, health careers teacher at SLWCHS. “These students are old enough to feel the effect of what this does to their family. Hopefully, if they learn now to be financially stable, it will stick with them throughout their adult life.”

The 66 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 special programs at DMCC. “I have been teaching these classes at this school for about six years.”

Mr. Athas said a common misconception for students is that all credit cards are bad.

“If we can teach them responsible use and they understand the basics, they will be better equipped to handle the future.”

Even though this was a topic that was addressed for years in classes, financial literacy was only recently added as one of the performance standards this 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, adding that the average score for students at the end of the 12-module course is about 97 percent.

But Mr. Athas was not only there to hand out certificates of completion, he was also there to reward the student with the highest score with a prize of $50.

Student Recieve Certificates
Students from Centennial High School receive their certificates


Junior Jessica Culhane and junior Hector Padilla-Valez tied for the top, with perfect scores. Pulling a name out of a hat, Jessica walked away with the money.

“This was a great opportunity for me to learn about debt management,” Jessica said. “It feels great.”

Hector didn’t leave empty-handed, though. Mr. Athas rewarded him with a gift card for his efforts.

“I like learning how to manage my money,” Hector 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.”

The online financial literacy program is available to everyone at no charge. It can be found at Click on the financial literacy icon.

Article by: By Dawn Krebs /

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