Hearts and Minds: How NEFE’s HSFPP Curriculum Helped Turn an After-School Club into a Life-Changing Organization

How NEFE’s HSFPP Curriculum Helped Turn an After-School Club into a Life-Changing OrganizationDavid McConico moved around a lot as a kid. His father was in the military, and the family moved eight times before high school. In the mid-1970s, they landed in Aurora, Colo., where McConico enrolled at Hinkley High.

McConico was an athlete, making all-conference in football and basketball, but a high school bookkeeping class changed all of that. McConico fell in love with accounting and he went on to become a certified financial planner (CFP®) and certified public accountant (CPA®).

While earning his financial planner certification from the College of Financial Planning (which later evolved into NEFE), McConico learned about the HSFPP curriculum. HSFPP is comprised of six modules designed to lay a solid foundation for financial independence and informed financial decision making among high school-aged students through building confidence, applying practical skills, and exhibiting sensible behaviors related to money management.

After years in finance, McConico felt compelled to leave his lucrative career in order to give back to his community. In 1996, he returned to Hinkley to coach basketball. McConico’s own passion for personal finance spurred him to offer his team the first Hinkley Finance Club in 2004, using the HSFPP curriculum and other materials. The idea not only was to talk about finance but to give the students real money for their participation. Through the United Way and other funders, the finance club offered students monetary incentives for participating in the program.

His pitch to the 16- to 18-year-old students was: “Do you want to learn about finance and earn money?”

“It was an incentive,” McConico says. “Learn to earn—we called it asset development.”

Maximizing one’s assets—financial and otherwise—is a core part of McConico’s message. He developed this formula as a sort of mantra:

A – L = NW ≠ SW
Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth, not Self Worth

It was a message that resonated with the students and one that McConico, as a former Hinkley student himself, believed crucial to their future success.

Doing the Math
Down the hall in Hinkley High, math teacher Bob Noyes also was teaching students about finance through his business math class, which linked mathematical concepts to financial topics—such as using exponents to calculate compounding interest.

Originally from Norfolk, Neb., Noyes studied accounting at Denver University, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1968. Noyes taught math and coached football and basketball for the next 10 years—first in Denver and then in his hometown of Norfolk. Noyes took a break from teaching to start a church. But something called him back to Colorado. Thirty years after starting his career in Denver, Noyes returned to teach math at Hinkley.

At first, Noyes says, his expectations for the business math class were low, especially since most of the students struggled with basic proficiency. But when the students began to make real-world calculations—seeing, for example, how much they could earn by investing and saving early—Noyes recognized the potential of financial literacy and education to make a real difference in young people’s lives.

“I fell in love with it,” Noyes says. “That year I got my master’s degree and wrote my thesis on financial literacy in high schools. I developed lesson plans that engaged the students in these topics. By the time I finished my master’s, I was hooked and committed.”

One of McConico’s club students introduced him to Noyes and a partnership emerged, combining McConico’s knowledge of and passion for finance with Noyes’ math expertise.

“As a CFP and CPA, David brings in knowledge that I don’t have,” says Noyes. “And the kids love it. They want to learn about money.”

Noyes’ business math class became one of the most popular in the district. Even with Noyes teaching a full course load—five sections with 30 students each—there were 150 students on the waitlist.

Of the five courses Noyes plans to teach in the 2014-15 school year, four are financial math classes. He also is helping to train other math teachers in the district to deliver the curriculum.

Changing Minds, Changing Behaviors
Students can earn up to $300 for completing the finance club requirements, including $200 for their engagement in asset development activities such as opening a savings account and interacting with financial institutions; $75 for skills proficiency; and $25 for a finished curriculum binder, which includes the financial math worksheets. The only other stipulation is that the student has to graduate.

These incentives initially were given to students in cash. Now students receive 25 percent in cash and 75 percent in a stock account. The money is held in a group account for the duration of a student’s time in the club. After graduation, the student receives the account in his or her own name.

Even more than the money, the curriculum binder has become one of the most valued assets to emerge from the program. When one young man misplaced his binder after graduation, he came back and asked if he could make photocopies of the master because he valued the information so much.

“The real-world concepts and the math together address the issue of retention and behavior change,” says Noyes. “Just more information doesn’t necessarily do it. The math helps, because when you crunch the numbers yourself, graph it in color, and come to some conclusions, it’s pretty impressive. Those pictures stick in your mind.”

Dynamic Calculations
Noyes reinforces basic math concepts such as percentages, ratio, and proportion in many of his financial math worksheets. “Almost all of finance is percentage and ratio,” says Noyes. “So there’s basic math in the curriculum, but there is also dynamic math for the future.”

In one lesson, Noyes has students calculate how much money they would spend if they smoked a pack of cigarettes a day (around $5) from age 15 to 65, which turns out to be around $100,000. He then has the students graph out how much they could earn by investing that same $5 a day in the stock market. The result is between $1.7 and $1.8 million.

“The kids will say, ‘well, I’m not going to smoke,’” says Noyes. “But then I reply, ‘Ok, what about the money you spend on chips and soda?”

This lesson also inevitably has an effect on parents.

“Once at a parent-teacher conference, a mother told me that her son got really mad at her for smoking,” Noyes says. “Her son told her they could have been millionaires. The point is that kids go home and talk. This parent got the message.”

The Most Valuable Assets
McConico has leveraged his funding and business allies including the Daniels Fund and the Mountain West Credit Union Association to continue to expand the finance club’s breadth and vision. Students can apply for entrepreneurship grants as well as career coaching and skills assessment.

“The career coaching gives excellent comprehensiveness to our program in terms of asset development,” McConico says, “because the students themselves are the most valuable assets.”

Seeing former students such as Juwon Melvin (LINK TO OYO PROFILE) find success underscores the importance of inspiring young people to find a sense of purpose early.

“We want these students to develop their skills, talents, and knowledge so that they can be employed or start their own opportunities like Juwon did,” McConico says. “Juwon is one of the wonderful examples of someone connecting early in life and getting it right.”

Noyes reminisces about another student who did not perform well in math class, but who, after completing the course and graduating, went on to look for a job. The student went to a construction site and before filling out an application, asked if the employer offered a 401(k) retirement plan. The company did not, so the young man moved on to the next place. He found an employer who did offer a 401(k), but did not match contributions. The young man moved on to the next place. He continued to search until he found an employer who offered a 401(k) retirement plan that matched contributions to his standards. Before the young man even interviewed, the human resources representative told him that he likely would rise quickly through the ranks.

“You’re going to be a manager,” the HR person said, simply because he was thinking ahead to the future, and was informed enough to ask the right questions.

Noyes points out that even though that young man had struggled with the math, he still got the message behind the calculations, which led to a change in behavior.

But it was another young man, a senior named Juan, who perhaps best captured the spirit of the vision driving Noyes and McConico’s efforts.

A few years ago there was a movement among students to stage a walkout of all the area high schools to protest a lack of acknowledgment of the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Hinkley’s athletic director gathered the students in the gym to discuss the issue.

One of those students, Juan, was a member of the finance club and had received financial incentives as part of the program. Juan was a recognized trendsetter among his peers, so when he stood up and said that the students should stay in school to talk through the issues rather than walk out, the other students listened.

“We were one of the few schools that didn’t have a walkout, ”Noyes says. “I asked Juan later why he had done that. He referred back to the finance club.”

Juan responded, “‘The Man’ has never given me anything before, but now ‘the Man’ is giving me something, and that makes me think different.”

Noyes sees this as part of a larger vision.“I think that growing wealth inequalities are the nation’s biggest moral and economic challenge. What we are doing here at Hinkley is one of the most dynamic ways to close the gaps,” says Noyes. “I have seen, and students have told me, that they have learned and changed. That’s part of the reason I haven’t retired yet.”

On August 9, 2014, Hinkley High School will host its first Finance and Math Empowerment Festival. For more information, visit www.feetcenter.org or call 303-903-4356.

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]