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CAG Blog: Powered by Optimism

"Powered by Optimism" captures my reflections of life in and around an all-girls' school and highlights the values of C.A.G.: leadership, global citizenship, wellness, and teaching and learning. Underscoring it all is a deeply ingrained sense of optimism that we are preparing a generation of boldly creative women who will help change the world. 


financial literacy- 10.9.12

One positive aspect to come out of the 2008 financial crisis, the effects of which are still being felt and will most likely continue for years to come is the discussion for the need for financial literacy on a national level. Arne Duncan, the Department of Education, said, “As important as reading and math and social studies and science are, I think today more than ever financial literacy has to be part of that. To continue to have a population that is relatively illiterate in these matters, I think has real negative consequences to our democracy.”

Lessons on financial independence are especially important to girls for several reasons. The combination of pay disparities between women and men that persist and the potential for women to incur time spent away from the labor force, results in smaller social security benefits for women. On top of that, women are living longer, so they have to save more for retirement.

As the teacher for Financial Literacy, which is a six week course as a part of Transitions for 11thgraders, I seek to provide the girls with the tools and skills to empower them to create an economic independent future.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a seminar for educators on Business and Financial Responsibility hosted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by PwC, a multinational professional services firm, who has committed to advance youth education in financial literacy as part of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative.

In attendance were 150 teachers from 22 states including California, Florida, and Michigan all of whom who gave up their personal time and devoted the weekend to this important topic. While only thirteen states now require a course in personal finance as a high school graduation requirement (Pennsylvania is not one of them), many states are now developing standards. Thanks to PwC and Wharton who provided all the transportation, lodging and food, there was no cost to the participating schools. 

At the outset of this ambitious 3-day schedule of programming, I had hoped to learn some best practices in teaching Financial Literacy and walk away with resources and lesson plans. And indeed I did receive great advice and valuable take-away lessons and skills. 

But beyond the goal of strengthening the financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills of high school students by providing teachers with financial-education lessons and skills, the Penn professors and PwC professionals who partnered in this inaugural seminar highlighted the bigger picture and the impact on the overall security of our economy. 

Financial literacy is not just learning about managing your money. It is about decision-making and the skills that the girls learn in personal finance are transferable to how they will make decisions in all aspects of their lives. And we are building on those skills to help our students develop confidence in leadership, influence, networking, and collaboration skills. The girls of this millennium generation live in a different world – they will look at the business world not just in terms of profit margin but also corporate responsibility and sustainability.

The Wharton seminar was an amazing opportunity – it simultaneously drained me, energized me, overwhelmed me, but most of all inspired me. It also left me with a sense of urgency. I feel so proud and privileged to have the amazing opportunity to help lead and educate our future leaders at AIS. But I feel passionate that we can do more in the area of Financial Literacy, especially starting at an earlier age. I am so excited to be given the opportunity to conduct participatory action research (PAR) to explore the merits of incorporating financial literacy and leadership skills in the Lower School. I tell my Fin Lit students, Invest in Yourself – now we need to invest in them.

Carole Melvin is the Comptroller at The Agnes Irwin School. She teaches financial literacy skills to our 11th grade students. 

Posted by on Tuesday October, 9, 2012

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