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Financial Literacy for Everyone

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January 2, 2017

Tecoya Brantley-Williams

Swansea High School
Swansea, South Carolina

After learning about the lack of financial education programs in South Carolina, Tecoya Brantley-Williams focused her teaching efforts on empowering students to take the reins of their own financial futures.

Tecoya teaches Economics at Swansea High School in Swansea, South Carolina and has taught over 340 students over the past two years. The Economics class includes macro and micro economics, and is split between supply and demand and financial literacy, including checking, saving and credit. She uses blended learning methods with online videos and activities that are self-paced for each individual's needs.

Every day is different in her classroom, and Tecoya incorporates lessons from all walks of life through case studies, hands on activities, simulations and games. Students participate in activities where they can determine what their credit score would be after making decisions with their money to learn how small choices can have a huge impact. "The biggest thing they get out of it is to have efficacy and agency in their financial life. When they learn that they can buy a home with good credit, a lightbulb goes off, and they realize that they can make different choices. It's empowering to them," explains Tecoya.

Students also partake in a simulation where they determine how much money they would have left over after paying taxes and bills based on a particular job and salary. When students realize these costs, they can better understand the importance of having money saved for a later use. Tecoya helps her students monetize their choices to realize the the opportunity cost of not going on a weekend trip but being able to save the money and buy a car later on.

Swansea High School is in an area where many residents don't have a strong relationship with money. A bank rep came into the class to address many students' distrust of banks due to their parents not having checking or saving accounts. Tecoya sees the need for teaching financial literacy to this community. "There's a space in economics classes for financial literacy. Students need to know about how to build decent credit scores. There are so many decisions people make that end up destroying their credit so that they can't buy a car or house. There's an intense need for financial literacy," explains Tecoya.

In 2011, Tecoya started teaching an alternative adult education program. Many of her adult students didn't know about checking and saving accounts, and that they don't have to live paycheck to paycheck. Through the course, she instill in her students a mentality of getting above their means. "The response was amazing. Many of them made poor choices, dropped out of school and are now going back to finish their education and start savings accounts," says Tecoya.

Many students coming into her class don't have banks, but by the end of the class they have opened their own checking and savings accounts, which is how Tecoya determines the success of her course. 75 percent of her students have earned a financial literacy certification, and she also tracks her students' growth with regular quizzes and unit tests. Her students even send her messages about how participating in her class has positively impacted their lives.

Tecoya recognizes the importance as educators and professionals to understand what students are facing today. "Many grew up with thehousing collapse and have seen siblings unable to pay for student loans and feel financially powerless because of their circumstances. I want to empower kids to make their own financial choices and have reigns of their financial futures," says Tecoya.

Practical Money Skills would like to commend Tecoya Brantley-Williams for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at Swansea High School.

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