BAY MINETTE — Do you remember what it was like graduating high school? Going into the world on your own, taking control of your own finances and budgeting your well-earned money?For many in our …
BAY MINETTE — Do you remember what it was like graduating high school? Going into the world on your own, taking control of your own finances and budgeting your well-earned money?
For many in our nation, debt is also a large part of that period in their life – debt that cannot be easily erased.
Seniors at Baldwin County High School are participating in Dave Ramsey's financial planning program for students to get some financial advice ahead of graduation.
The program is being paid for by the National Guard for the 2022-2023 school year. This marks the first year the program is being studied at Baldwin County High.
"It's a great program about personal finance," Misty Morries, social studies teacher at BCHS, said. "It really is about you making these decisions for yourself and your family."
What does the program look like?
During the course, students go through multiple modules focusing on everything from an overview of personal finance to budgeting and the dangers of debt.
Lessons usually begin with a video overview, followed by questions for the students to answer and points of discussion among the class. Students then complete activity pages tied to each lesson.
"The kids were really shocked when learning that you should not go into debt, that that's the abnormal," Morries said. "The norm is, 'Oh, everybody goes into debt. They have car loans, they have house loans, they have student loans, they have credit card debt.' So we looked at some statistics on debt, and that was really eye-opening, that you should pay cash for some things. It's going to be a mind-shift for them."
Benefits after graduating
Morries said many adults have to learn some hard financial lessons after graduating from high school. With this class, she hopes that the graduating seniors of class 2023 will be better equipped to make smart financial decisions.
"These students are going to have this financial foundation going forward, and hopefully that will better prepare them for the future, or at least they'll have the knowledge they need," Morries said.
Morries said an important lesson to teach the seniors is that while all the information being learned in the financial class will be important in the future, it's also beneficial to them now.
During a discussion about senior supplies, Morries had the students list all of the expenses involved with their senior year, from graduation and dances to Spring Break and Class of '23 keychains.
"I told them I know they're really excited about getting all of this senior '23 stuff, but to stop and think do they really want or need it," she said. "I wanted to get them to think about the expenses they have coming down the road, such as a yearbook, senior activities and graduation. All of it is going to cost money."
Morries said applying financial lessons to their lives now puts things into perspective for the future. Budgeting becomes more than just a "grown-up thing," and an important feature in their daily lives, she said.
Another lesson Morries sees being applicable to seniors' lives is on taxes. She said approximately 75% of her senior students are already working, and she believes introducing them to the course on taxes will show them how these lessons are important in their lives now, and later.
Seniors, it seems, agree.
"My mom always tells us that you need to prepare for life and have a good credit score, and debt is not what you want," senior Jaelyn Gray said. "Coming here and seeing these lessons in school really helps a lot, because I know I'm getting it at home but seeing other students learn about it has been helpful to me.
"My biggest takeaway so far has been how can these lessons help me now," she added. "Like as we're getting jobs as young people how can we start preparing for our future and writing down our budgets for the week with how much we buy and what we need and just what we want. How is it working now in my life and not just in adulthood."
Financial planning in future years
After the pilot year, Principal Craig Smith said he would like to survey the students and the teachers to see what they've taken from the program.
"It's great the National Guard has stepped up and is paying for this program, and it will just be a matter of assessing it and seeing if it's where we want to spend our money," he said. "But for the most part, I really feel like we've put this out there for the kids and they know it's a resource that's available to them, and hopefully at the end of the year they'll walk out with some financial background that will help them as they're going into college or careers."
If successful, Smith said discussions may be had on whether or not to expand the program to include other grade levels in the future.