In their second year at Booker T. Washington Senior High School, the Knowledge of Careers Ambassador class focused on a different professional skill every month, beginning with financial literacy. It’s no secret that financial literacy is underemphasized in most high schools, and so we were grateful and proud of the lessons our Ambassadors received in it from volunteers from the prestigious PriceWaterhouseCoopers firm. Understanding personal finance is an essential life skill. The volunteers investigated the underlying math behind finance and how to apply it to practical money management skills.
The first lesson, “Basic Math and Finance,” was designed to gauge students’ mathematical skills and to introduce them to basic topics in modern finance. Topics included interest, taxes, and percentages, as well as discounts and premiums. Most importantly, we stressed the value of payment plans and budgets, and the students completed an activity in basic payment plans and discounts. The second lesson, “Saving and Budgeting,” was crafted to demonstrate the importance of savings for one’s own future. We introduced the different means of saving and taught practical ways for students to budget their own money. During this lesson, we stressed why it is important to save and keep track of current expenses. In order to emphasize the importance of savings, we had the students complete a write-up on the value of savings and also had them create a mock budget given a discretionary income and choices of things to buy.
As the lessons became more complex we introduced “Taxes, Savings, and Investments,” which was designed to convince students of the importance of saving and shows them how strategic decisions made with each paycheck can contribute to long term prosperity. Throughout the lesson, emphasis was placed on how to save, and students learned to file a 1040EZ as an in class activity. Beyond that, “Credit, Debt, Living Within Your Means,” showed the students how credit is a powerful resource but must be handled with caution and restraint. In order to stress the benefits and risks of maintaining credit, we had the students complete a write-up about bankruptcy, and also worked through an example problem of paying off debt.
Following a month of Financial Literacy, November introduced a new theme – Technological Development. This module was designed around the most essential skills: Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and the use of internet based resources. The students acquired the basic training needed to use any of these programs in their career or college life. Each student made significant progress on their respective Community Impact Projects, which were integrated into each week’s lesson. Students worked one-on-one with Jorge Mendez, the Program Director of University of Miami’s “Innovate:Miami” and a Teaching Fellow at Miami Dade’s “The Idea Center.” With his help, the students began giving their projects much more substance and depth.
Community Impact Projects
Jorge Mendez led the first lesson on November 1st, which focused on the Community Impact Projects, community growth, and self involvement. After brainstorming some ideas for their projects, students completed a worksheet laying out the backbone of their Community Impact Projects. Students began thinking through the major factors associated with the ‘problem’ they are addressing and crafting their problem statements. Jorge met with each student individually to further their progress with their respective Community Impact Projects. At the end of this lesson, students had a detailed problem statement and a plan for how to begin implementing solutions this Spring. Over the Winter holiday, each group will be administering 20 surveys throughout their communities to better assess the issues they are targeting.
Basic skills associated with using Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel in a professional and academic capacity were a primary focus this semester. Topics included: formatting paragraphs, essays, and memos, creating bulleted information and info at-a-glance, using spellcheck and search and replace functions, and formatting APA bibliographies and citations. Students researched scholarly articles pertaining to their Community Impact Projects and formatted APA bibliographies with the information. During classes, students practiced formatting cells by reformatting a poorly formatted excel sheet. These skills, in addition to the professional and academic applications of Microsoft PowerPoint, will undoubtedly prove important when the students begin working on the financial aspects of their Community Impact Projects.
SAT/ACT Preparation and Youth Leadership
In anticipation for second semester, the month of December began integrating real practice material from the ACT and SAT standardized exams. We want our students to feel as prepared and confident as possible when it comes to these tests, and we believe early introduction and practice will help them achieve this. This month students also switched gears and focused on applying for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), which is an intensive training program for young adults, ages 14-30. Through RYLA, students have the opportunity to develop leadership skills and character, gain exposure to a variety of issues and people, meet active community leaders, and learn valuable information and career skills. Our students prepared answers to a series of questions and turned in their applications during the second week of December.
As the semester drew to a close, we introduced the students to the vast number of internet resources at their disposal. In particular, we taught the students how to use local government websites and how to navigate a college application page. In addition, we had the students use YouTube to supplement their Community Impact Project.