Last year, Ednium: The Alumni Collective and its alumni partners gathered in full force during the Board of Education meeting where they provided public comment in support of adding financial literacy to high school graduation requirements.
After working with board members, the policy was adopted unanimously, and the real work began.
However, the initial idea to champion a financial literacy campaign started in 2019 when alumni partners came together in Ednium’s Design Lab to identify issues they could impact in public-school education.
Through in-person discussions, coupled with a survey of key stakeholders, the issue that resonated the most was financial literacy. Alumni expressed a lack of understanding on topics such as personal finance, loans, credit cards, and budgeting. After graduation, many were challenged to learn the hard way which oftentimes resulted in long-term consequences that had a ripple effect on their livelihood.
“It was a collective space where alumni imagined what this could look like for future students and asked the question, ‘what do I know now that I wish I knew then?,” says Perla Bustillos, Ednium co-founder and director of operations.
Once the board adopted the policy, the work began to access resources to support the initial goal: integrating the curriculum in all district high schools.
DPS and Ednium secured a grant through Next Gen Personal Finance to establish a Financial Literacy Specialist position for the district and support ongoing professional development. Currently, Ednium is working alongside DPS in the hiring process, interviewing and vetting candidates, and expects to have the position filled in June.
Some schools are already teaching financial literacy classes for students, and these are the models alumni hope to build upon in the initial learning community at high schools this fall.
At DSST: College View, chemistry teacher, Matthew Boumphrey had an epiphany about what he was doing: ‘Am I teaching something that can help these students now, giving them information to share with their families and improve upon their lives currently?’ It was then he decided to pitch the financial literacy course which he now teaches in addition to his chemistry course.
The class focuses on giving students simple access to financial topics that they can use now and are relevant to their lives. They learn about the stock market, savings and checking accounts, housing, budgeting, and taxes.
This year one of the students brought in his W-2 and the class helped him file his taxes, all learning basic understanding on what is needed to file correctly.
Maria, a senior at DSST: College View picked the class because she watched her parents struggle with money all her life and as an undocumented person, she knew it would be important to learn how to use her money wisely while preparing to give herself a better chance to create the life she wants.
“Financial literacy should become a core class because so many people remain poor due to generations of not knowing these things,” Maria said. “I used to think I wouldn’t be able to achieve my goals because of how little money I made, but I learned how to save in this class and now my teachers are surprised at how much I have saved at my age.”
Maria is planning to attend Metropolitan State University of Denver in the fall, to specialize in early education, but she also has a side business going and knows to put away 20% of all her paychecks into her savings to have better control over her future financial success.
Spearheaded by social studies teacher Daniel Walter, West High School also has a financial literacy course for students. After implementing the school’s Black Excellence Plan, educators were intent on offering classes that would focus on life skills. Walters knew the impact of the personal finance lessons in his economics class and immediately designed a whole course dedicated to the topic.
Ednium alumni gave feedback to the West High course based on their own experiences with insurance, taxes, and credit scores. Looking at opportunities where alumni felt confused or unable to access opportunity has shaped lessons and given students a first-hand account of how to normalize complex financial topics.
Together with the district, Ednium’s alumni partners will continue reinforcing the foundational work already done, and support the new Financial Literacy Specialist. The current plan calls for pilot programs to begin this fall and for additional schools to implement the curriculum in spring 2023 with the graduation requirement starting after that.
“Ednium is committed to continuing the work through the Leadership Launchpads, and also by hosting school-based design labs in high schools to connect students directly with young alumni professionals. This is our opportunity to showcase the brilliance we already have out there in the community and show soon-to-be alumni that lifting your voice can have an effect on those around you,” said TeRay Esquibel, Ednium’s co-founder and executive director.