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Menomonee Falls High School recognized for personal finance program

Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 19:39:05-05

A Southeast Wisconsin high school is getting national recognition for its efforts to educate students in personal finance.

Menomonee Falls High School requires that students pass personal finance before they graduate.

"It taught me like life skills that I didn't know before like it taught me how to do taxes and things about banking," said Alison Hahn.

"There's more things you have to do than just sit at a job and do your work," said Colin Hall. "You take that money and then you have to spend it wisely."

Almost 80 percent of millennials don't have basic financial knowledge, according to Next Gen Personal Finance.

Business and computer science teacher Laura Schoenike hopes students understand financial literacy and money management by the time they get through the class.

"We go through six units of personal finance," said Schoenike. "We start by looking at careers because a career is how you are going to make your living."

Banking, budgeting, investing, credit, insurance and taxes are also part of the curriculum.

"We really do our best to kind of infuse current events into the curriculum cause so much of what students hear on the news or through social media really impacts their day-to-day lives and finances," said Schoenike.

The school's director of curriculum Casey Blochowiak said Menomonee Falls High School strategically wanted 11th graders to take the class.

"Right around junior year our students are going to be considering maybe buying their first car, they're more seriously considering those college options and those are all things that are outcomes of that class," said Blochowiak.

Less than 20 percent of students are required to take personal finance and Tim Ranzetta wants to change that. He started Next Gen Personal Finance, a non-profit working to grow financial education.

"We think all kids deserve access to a personal finance course before they graduate from high school because there are so many important decisions coming down the pike," said Ranzetta.

The non-profit trains teachers to teach personal finance and offers curriculum to schools in hopes of bringing personal finance to all high schools.

"I think back in the '30s and '40s maybe this was part of math instruction or was weaved into curriculum and then somewhere along the way it was lost," said Ranzetta.

Next Gen Personal Finance has named 887 Gold Standard Schools for their personal finance efforts. Menomonee Falls is one of them.

Students seem to buy into the class.

"It's a good way to actually prepare you for a job," said Adam Dunne. "Any job that you're actually going to go into."

Forty-nine percent of students in Wisconsin are required to take personal finance. That's better than the national average. Next Gen Personal Finance said more than 100 schools in Wisconsin meet their gold standard.