Financial Literacy Program At Decatur Making A Difference

Financial Literacy Program At Decatur Making A Difference

BERLIN — Enrollment in Stephen Decatur High School’s (SDHS) EverFi Inc. financial literacy program is holding steady with the third class of students graduating last week. The program is going strong under the direction of teacher Kurt Marx, who stepped in when the program was struggling to find a guiding hand.

“This is the second year that Bank of Ocean City (BOC) has partnered basically with Stephen Decatur High School but more in particular with Mr. Marx, for the EverFi program with financial literacy. And, in this day in time, if you are not financially literate and know what’s going on out there you’re going to be in the poorhouse,” ” said Principal Tom Zimmer.

EverFi is an interactive financial literacy teaching program that uses things like adaptive-pathing, 3-D gaming, social networking, online animations, video, and messaging tools to evolve a student’s financial IQ. In the last two years, the collaboration between EverFi, BOC and SDHS has graduated three classes. Last year’s class contained 33 students and the numbers are similar with last week’s graduation.

Bank of Ocean City Assistant Vice President Earl Conley chalked up a lot of the interest in the program to Marx’s instruction and passion for preparing students for a complicated financial world.

“[Marx] is a great teacher here and for him to really help push the program it shows he truly believes in it and having a teacher that truly believes in it helps get more students into it,” Conley said. “I think we had about 30 graduates this spring so that’s fantastic.”

Zimmer added that last year it was difficult finding a teacher in SDHS that could work EverFi’s financial literacy program into their schedule but that Marx leapt at the chance and “really took the ball and ran with it.” The students who participated in the program were thankful for that and for the lessons provided in the online course.

EverFi focused on all aspects of practical financing from managing student loans up through balancing a checkbook, building credit and maintaining a mortgage.

“There were like 10 different videos and it was very interactive. There were activities within each set of videos,” said SDHS student Alex Saunders.

While EverFi touched on fiscal literacy at all stages of adulthood, Saunders noted that the sections dealing with student loans and scholarship planning are especially important to students. Others in the class agreed with Saunders that EverFi left them feeling far better prepared for life after graduation from SDHS.

“I would say that, as a senior, definitely the college part of it really helped,” said Sean Velasquez Albino.

There are other parts of the program that will have an immediate or near immediate impact on students that aren’t directly related to college. Conley warned the group to prepare to be barraged by credit card offers once they turn 18 and that those cards can be a double-edged sword.

“I promise you that you will be solicited by credit cards,” he said. “They are a great tool to build credit, they’re a great tool to help you get the things you need but the one big thing that you have to do is you have to separate your needs from your wants.”

The amount of content available through EverFi was staggering, according to student Roland Foreman, who said that he found himself paying close attention during the videos as the questions at the end were impossible to simply guess or muddle through.

“For me it was really surprising how much stuff there is to know. You think you know about finance and then you do this program and think, ‘well, I didn’t know that,’” Foreman said.

The 10-unit course contains about six hours of programming and serves to certify participants in over 600 topics related to finance. The partnership between Bank of Ocean City and EverFi came about because SDHS didn’t have a dedicated fiscal literacy program in place but needed one badly. The bank saw it as a prime opportunity to reach out to students to help them grow those skills early to better prepare them for life after school.

“Teaching fiscal responsibility to young adults has always been a big part of the bank’s community involvement,” said Wayne Benson, president and CEO of BOC.  “Educating our youth to make intelligent financial decisions on their own sets a solid foundation on which they can build upon over their lifetime.”

The program is offered to the school and students at no cost and will continue to evolve in the years ahead. The Bank of Ocean City is invested in the partnership “for the long haul,” according to Conley, as financial literacy is becoming more and more mandatory for young adults. EverFi is also certain to stick around, as it’s located in every state in the country. Students will likely help shape the goals and methods of financial literacy as the program continues to graduate more classes, with Conley saying that the feedback received this year has been impressive.