WEST WARWICK – An event held at West Warwick High School’s media center last week invited a group of around 30 students to put their knowledge of personal finance to the test.
Sponsored by BankNewport, the Financial Education Fair provided an opportunity for students from the High School Finance Academy to apply what they learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios, said BankNewport CEO, Jack Murphy.
“Should you buy the iPhone 5 or should you buy the iPhone 3? Murphy said, addressing the students as the fair got underway. “Should you buy the Hyundai, the Kia or the Mercedes? This is an important thing to think about, because your personal finances are extremely important, and managing your personal finances will lead to success – I promise you.
Tables set up around the media center were occupied by representatives from area businesses, including the College Planning Center of Rhode Island; Rhode Island Community College; Empire Beauty School; Premier Homes Realty; Tasca Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat, and OceanPoint Insurance Agency.
Having each chosen a career in advance, the students were invited to visit each table, where they would engage as consumers with the various businesses and make spending decisions based on their net income.
At a table held by Cruise Planners, the students had to decide if they could afford to go on vacation; a Stop & Shop table allowed students to grapple with paying for food and other groceries.
And at another table, the students were thinking about whether or not to adopt a dog or a cat.
Between adoption fees, vet bills, and the costs of food and other supplies, pets can be expensive. But for seniors Yasumin Vongvilay and Ava Tavares, there was really no question of whether or not it would be a good idea to adopt a four-legged friend.
“We have puppies,” Tavares said. “Having a pet is fun, and it’s not too much money. It’s worth it.”
As the 11th and 12th graders circled the hall, figuring out if they had room in their budget for a pedicure, or if they could justify paying for the more expensive gym membership , they also got a taste of how unpredictable life can be.
At the Wheel of Consequences, students had to take a spin to determine what unexpected situation they would face. Would they be charged $600 to complete car repairs, or would they be down $150 after misplacing a wallet? Could they receive a $750 tax refund or receive a $500 employee bonus?
Aidan Wallad was lucky – a junior in high school, Wallad landed on “eBay for sale”. He said he plans to apply that $125 either to a car loan or to paying his rent.
The concepts taught at the Académie des Finances, one of the 10 The vocational and technical training programs offered at West Warwick are among the most important that students can learn before graduating, said Marc LeBlanc, program director.
The personal finance lessons learned from the program and put into practice at Tuesday’s fair are crucial, added Charon Rose, assistant treasurer for financial empowerment and community outreach at the Rhode Island Department of Treasury.
“It’s really important that you understand the power of your dollar,” she told students.
Rose, who graduated from classical high school in 2005, didn’t have personal finance classes available to her when she was in school, she said. A first-generation high school and college graduate, Rose had no idea how to finance her education.
“I made a lot of stupid decisions, like going to a school that was very expensive and only gave me a partial scholarship,” she said. “You want to make really smart decisions about which school you go to.”
With its Rhode Island Promise scholarship, the Community College of Rhode Island is a great option for many, she said. And for students who want to enter the job market quickly, a trade school is a possibility.
“It really makes sense to weigh all your options,” she said. “Making a smart decision today and personal finance will put you light years ahead of a lot of people.”
For Ethan Aggor, the lessons learned at the Finance Academy have already paid off.
After being accepted to Yale University, Aggor was shocked at how much it would cost him to attend the Ivy League school.
“The number seemed really outrageous,” he said. “It was really hard to convince my family that this is a place I should go, that it would be worth it.”
Then Aggor thought back to what he had learned in class about negotiation. Instead of accepting the first number given to him, he decided to appeal for financial aid.
The financial assistance offered to Aggor was based on his parents’ tax returns. But her father works for a technology education company, and in the year that the university reviewed, he had earned much more than usual because of the pandemic.
“They had it reviewed by a board of directors…and they took a look at next year, and it completely changed my expected family contribution,” he said.
In the end, the cost Aggor originally received was halved.
Aggor was “very grateful for that,” he said.
“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t been aware of the negotiation process,” he said. “This class has literally given me tens of thousands of dollars. It’s pretty amazing.