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Students and Parents can Benefit from Financial Ed, Panelists Tell FOCUS Summit Attendees
Monday, February 10, 2014 6:40 AM

Educator Panel at FOCUS Summit

When it comes to deploying financial education, a panel of educators encouraged a credit union audience at the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation’s FOCUS Summit last week to “think outside of the classroom.” The FOCUS Summit was held last week in Dallas, and is an annual event that brings together credit union professionals, financial education advocates, community leaders and school officials to share ideas and best practices on removing the barriers to household savings and asset building and empowering consumers to become better managers of their personal finances. 

Bringing financial education into the schools is important, but Denise Blanchard, program director for community partnerships in the Amarillo ISD, says it needs to expand beyond the classroom.

“Offer to teach our parents important financial skills,” she encouraged the credit union audience. “Consider PTA meetings as they are always looking for speakers.”

Shannon Trejo, division director of PK-12 Curriculum & Instruction for Irving ISD, couldn’t agree more. There are about 35,000 students in Irving ISD, and 80 percent of the student body is from low-income families. Hispanics represent 70 percent of the student body and 40 percent of Irving ISD students are limited English proficient.

“It’s so important that we educate our students and parents, particularly when it comes to college preparedness” Trejo said.

Trejo highlighted the districts Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) initiative, which is a college readiness program.

“A lot of our parents don’t understand the pathway to college, so we need to educate our parents on how to get their kids to college,” Trejo said. “Give our parents the tools they need to make college a reality for their children.”

If you are reaching out to families, Lynn Ojeda, principal of Williams High School in Plano, says it’s important to be sensitive to cultural nuances.

“All families approach money differently. Some are living in the moment and aren’t focused on long-term planning, so it’s important to be sensitive to that,” Ojeda suggested.

She also suggested that credit unions consider offering financial education to parents in Spanish.

“A lot of our parents are Spanish-speaking, so it would be helpful to deliver a financial education program in Spanish,” she said.

She also suggested that it would be a great idea to offer parents a certificate for completing a financial education course.

Dallas ISD Teacher Brook Syverson believes a certificate program works well for kids as well.

“We all need to be passionate about personal finance,” Syverson told the audience. “But if you want to reach kids, you have to make it fun, and at the end of the activity, give them a certificate so they know they accomplished something. Kids love certificates and they’ll want to take them home and show their parents.”

While teachers can certainly deliver financial education to students, all of the panelists agreed that it’s more empowering when someone from the outside delivers the material. They encouraged credit unions to continue partnering with school districts. If they are having difficulty getting into the school, look at their membership – perhaps they have a member who is a teacher and that teacher could help them get into the school. Consider sponsoring school activities, and reach out to the PTA.