OTTUMWA — School doesn’t teach a student everything. Barb Hanson, GEAR UP coordinator at OHS, hopes to change that.
“We’re always trying to find innovative ways to reach students,” she said. “This is an approach I talked about with some of my student leaders, and they were supportive of it.”
The approach Hanson came up with is an event she calls a “Lunch and Learn.” These are information sessions students can attend during their lunch periods that cover topics like how to pick a career path, how to apply for scholarships, and student leadership opportunities.
The first of these Lunch and Learns took place Wednesday. Lindsey Gould, marketing program coordinator at Community 1st Credit Union, came and gave a talk on credit cards.
Gould, who frequently works with students, said general financial literacy is something many don’t understand.
“Any financial topic they would have questions about is really important to us,” she said. “But a lot of bigger topics, with high school-age students in particular, are budgeting, credit scores, loans, credit cards, those types of things.”
It was clear most of the students in attendance didn’t have a strong understanding of a lot of what Gould talked about. When she asked if anybody knew how to avoid paying interest rates on a credit card, one of the students suggested simply not using the card.
Although the comment drew laughs, it reflected a common gap in understanding.
“I know my mom has one,” OHS senior Mary Brushwood joked when asked what she knew about credit cards. “And I know it’s borrowed money that you pay back.”
Gould said it’s important to impart these lessons on people while they’re young, before they form bad habits.
“A lot of the people we have coming in have abused or misbehaved with their credit, whether it be a credit card or a loan,” she said. “It’s best to start when they’re young, before they get those types of opportunities, so they know what’s good and what’s not. Because they are the only ones that know themselves as well as they do.”
While some of what she covered may have seemed self-apparent to a person already familiar with concepts like credit and interest, the students had plenty to ask. Gould provided advice on everything from the difference between credit and debit cards to how to build and maintain credit.
Gould also spoke about ways credit card companies could mislead an unwary customer. One tip she provided was that a purchase with a credit card will always cost more in the end than paying with cash. The example she used was how a $100 purchase at 25 percent interest would end up costing the card owner $125 once billed.
“My number-one tip is make payments on time,” Gould said. “No matter how much you’re spending, just make your payment on time.”
Brushwood was happy for the opportunity.
“It’s not something that’s really taught at school, and it’s something that should be known,” she said. “The only class that really goes into it is FCS. They write checks in the class, or they learn how to, but I think it’s the only class that does that.”
While OHS doesn’t have a required financial literacy course, all juniors are required to take economics. Although the class primarily focuses on basic economic concepts like supply and demand, it also has a financial literacy component that covers topics like investing and budgeting.
Lunch and Learn meetings are scheduled to take place on the first and third Wednesday of every month. They’re open to any student in high school.
“There’s a lot of different things coming up that I think will be good for the students,” Hanson said. “They just grab their lunch, come up here, and learn while they eat.”
The next meeting is Dec. 18, and will cover community engagement. They are held in the GEAR UP room. Those with additional questions should contact Barb Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.