"I understand now my responsibility about learning how to manage money." This statement, from Douglass High School sophomore Ryan Wells, is the message that the Financial Fitness Foundation (F3) hopes to instill.
Established in the fall of 1999, F3 was formed as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to teaching youth to make responsible financial choices for their futures. Based in Wichita, F3 has spent the past four years working with Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs. The two organizations have collaborated to develop and conduct educational seminars throughout the state (STRIDE to Financial Fitness).
"I don't think most people get it," said Jill Docking, president and founder of F3. "They don't get how a little bit of money can grow over a long period of time. Too many adults believe Social Security will be there to keep them afloat at the end of their working lives. We just can't count on that anymore," she said.
As vice president of investments at AG Edwards & Sons, Inc., she has seen too many adults work their way into a dismal financial situation. While still relying on Social Security, they refuse to put off spending and continue to pile up debt, which becomes an impossible burden to overcome in their golden years.
Through the foundation, Docking aims to change that situation by teaching up-and-coming generations of school children to take charge of their financial futures.
With the passage of Senate Bill 74 in the spring of 2003, the direction of F3 changed slightly. This legislation requires the state board of education to develop standards and objectives for personal financial literacy for all grade levels. It further mandates that Kansas schools incorporate personal finance topics into their curriculum, making Kansas unusual among the 50 states.
With the help of a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, F3 and the Docking Institute of Public Affairs have created an in-class curriculum program to directly educate high school students in Kansas. The program is currently being tested in 10 different high schools. Based on what the students are saying, the results have been very satisfying:
"I learned how to manage my own money." Aaron Shawn, Douglass High School, sophomore.
"I've learned how I can financially support myself." Sarah Galutia, Ottawa High School, sophomore.
"I will be more secure now in my future." Josh McComb, Ottawa High School, sophomore.
"I've learned how to save money, and become a millionaire!? Dustin Steele, Douglass High School, freshman.
Carol Rupe, executive director of the Financial Fitness Foundation and Jean Walker, projects manager at the Docking Institute, have been working with the high school teachers who are currently using this program in their classrooms. Dixie Thomas, a high school teacher from Wichita USD 259 is one such teacher.
"I?m thrilled that this outstanding curriculum is available, as there is a tremendous need for financial education in our schools," she said. After going through training, Thomas said, "The STRIDE program is designed in such a way that students will have fun as they learn the important skills needed to become financially fit."
After the initial testing of this program, it is the intent of the Financial Fitness Foundation to provide these materials to any interested high school teacher in the state of Kansas. The STRIDE program includes a teacher's guide, student guide, questions and activities section, glossary and resources, and CD ROM with PowerPoint presentations along with an energetic video which further shows students how the concepts of spending, time value of money/retirement, investing, debt and education can be applied in their daily lives.
The materials will be made available at no cost and will be ready by early summer of 2004. For further information about this program, contact Jean Walker at the Docking Institute of Public Affairs, Fort Hays State University, by phone at (785) 628-5952 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Carol Rupe at the Financial Fitness Foundation, by phone at (316) 973-5117 or e-mail at email@example.com.