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Gilpin youth to get jump start on learning money management

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Teachers receive grant for financial literacy program

By Patty Unruh

Gilpin County School teachers Sunny Vincent and Sharon Lutes were awarded a $5,000 grant in May from Great-West Financial through its Great-Teachers program. Great-West offers the $5,000 grants to teachers who are interested in including financial literacy in their curriculum.

Vincent and Lutes will use the grant funds to purchase Chromebooks for students so they can track their financial accounts, create spreadsheets and budgets, and keep personal financial journals to reflect on what they are learning. Chromebook is a personal computer that runs Google Chrome OS as its operating system. It is a device designed to be used while connected to the Internet and supports applications that are found on the Web.

In order to get the grant, the Gilpin teachers developed a proposal for teaching money management to the elementary school students. Lutes will integrate classroom economy into her fifth grade math lessons, and Vincent will work with Lutes to teach the children how to keep track of bank accounts using Google applications. Students will earn school “dollars” through assigned jobs, earn weekly paychecks and interest, pay rent for their desks, purchase insurance for “classroom disasters,” pay fines for late homework, and earn bonus pay for completing challenge work, participating in the school’s science fair, and tutoring younger students.

Vincent and Lutes had talked together about an easy way to introduce financial literacy in fifth grade. They found inspiration from a program on-line called “the classroom economy” and then wrote the grant together, deciding to apply for enough money to get Chromebooks and money for incentives for the program. They applied in March and received the grant in May.

Vincent said after being awarded the grant, the two teachers were invited to a dinner in June at the University of Denver hosted by Great-West. Each grant recipient was given an apple paper weight from Tiffany’s as a congratulatory gift.

The total amount awarded annually by Great-West for teacher grants is $125,000. Among the thirty school districts receiving grants for the 2013-2014 school year were Gilpin County School District, Jefferson County Schools, Boulder Valley Schools, Adams County, the Archdiocese of Denver, Denver Public Schools, and Cherry Creek Schools.

Great-West, in partnership with the Colorado Jump$tart Coalition, has created the grant initiative to help teachers develop financial programs for students in public, private, and charter schools in preschool through twelfth grades. Great-West is a financial services company that assists Americans, their companies and employers to build financial security through retirement savings programs, life insurance, and annuities. Jump$tart is a nonprofit organization with more than 40 individuals representing business, government, and education throughout Colorado.

The goal of the Great-Teachers program is to help teachers and students prepare for future financial success using 21st Century skills in our global economy. The program’s philosophy is that young people need to know how to balance a checkbook, save for future needs, and get the most for their money. It is intended to help schools meet personal financial literacy academic requirements that were adopted by the state of Colorado in December 2009 and that are required to be implemented in all public schools.

Gilpin County School started a graduation requirement last year for all seniors to earn one credit in financial literacy, which Vincent began teaching with a grant she received last year from a different company. She used that grant, in the amount of about $6,000, for 15 iPads and curriculum for teaching the class.

The state personal financial literacy standards are intended to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to manage savings, investment, and checking accounts; design and maintain a household budget; manage personal debt and credit options; understand consumer credit and finance; understand short-term and long-term investment options; and develop risk-management strategies.

Many important financial concepts are not getting through to the next generation, Jump$tart advises. The coalition conducted two surveys in 2008 to measure financial literacy among high school students and among college students. The survey taken of high school students showed that their financial literacy had fallen to its lowest level ever, with a score of 48.3 percent, but the average score for college students was 62.2 percent. The Great-Teachers website states: “The good news is that American college graduates are close to being financially literate and probably will be more so with more life experience. The bad news is that just 25 percent of our young adults are graduating from college and this number appears to have stabilized. This means that 75 of young American adults are likely to lack the skills needed to make beneficial financial decisions.”

The instruction that Gilpin’s students will receive will help to ensure that they are not among those who lack such skills.

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