Business and Financial Literacy for Teens

For our last unit of the semester at Coastside Leadership Academy, we focused on the 21st Century Theme of Business and Financial Literacy. We wanted our students to gain an understanding of the job application process and learn how to make informed financial decisions. We broke the unit into five stages including examining personal values, creating a resume, a mock interview, writing professional emails, and personal banking. 

Examining personal values– Before we started talking about potential jobs or internships, we helped our students develop awareness of their own intersectionality. Our students reflected on the intersections of their personal background and values and the lenses they view the world through. From here they were able to look for organizations that connected with these values. Our students discovered that they wanted to work for companies that valued animal rights, the environment, and prioritized mental health. 

Resume building– After our students identified organizations they wanted to join for a potential internship, we talked about the application process. We studied different sample resumes and noted which sections high school students should focus on. At first, our students were nervous about creating a resume because they didn’t feel that they had any valuable experiences that would qualify them for a job yet. We worked with them to list their individual skills they learned this year, their volunteer experiences, and any extracurriculars they are involved in. Many of our students were pleasantly surprised that they had more than a page’s worth of applicable skills to show an employer, even if they had never had a job. 

Mock interviews– Our students practiced applying to an internship, and we talked about why an interview is an important part of the application process. Of all the steps, the interview made our students the most nervous. We talked about how to prepare for an interview by researching their organization ahead of time, writing down a few questions to ask at the end of an interview, what to wear, and what to bring to the interview. We developed a few common interview questions for our students to prepare answers to in advance and helped them practice. Our students now have a 4-5 sentence answer for “tell me about yourself,” one of the most common ways for an interview to start. We practiced handshakes, eye contact, and how to answer “what are your strengths and weaknesses” by showing self awareness and personal growth. 

During the mock interviews, I was blown away when our students stepped into our “office” and used the feedback we had given them. One student started the interview by saying “thank you for having me, do you mind if I take notes? It helps me remember things and stay organized.” Another student led with “I struggle with eye contact. It doesn’t mean I am not listening or engaged, it just means I am processing what you are saying.” They showed maturity, self awareness, and confidence. I would have hired them for sure!

Professional emails– In the days of texting and emojis, it is important for students to learn how to write professional emails. Many of our students had not done this before, so we figured the interview process was a good opportunity to practice. We created a formula for professional emails and our students followed them for thank you emails after their interviews and when accepting the job offer for their internship. Capital letters, a polite greeting, spelling, a concrete example, and a courteous closing all count when emailing a potential employer!

Banking– After our students landed the internship of their dreams, they were each given a stipend of $6000 for the summer. The question was, now that they have money, what do they do with it? We took a field trip to Wells Fargo Bank to learn about checking and savings accounts and credit cards. Our students were engaged at the bank and asked great questions. They learned from the bankers what types of questions they should ask when opening an account and also where to look for hidden fees. They learned how a credit history and score affects interest rates for big purchases, and the importance of paying your bills on time so you do not get penalized. 

For the final piece of our unit, we gave the students scenarios for their $6000 stipends. Some were going to save money in a savings account, and others were going to invest money in a CD. They learned how to calculate their investments over a 10 year period using formulas on Google Sheets, and our students were excited about how much money they could make by finding the best interest rate on 

Our Business and Financial Literacy unit was based on practical skills and one of our most memorable. As with all of our units at CLA, we had our students go inward through introspection first, to decide what was important to them in a place of work. From there, the unit was hands-on, and they created a resume they can build on and adapt as they continue with their education and careers. The unit was also experiential, with the mock interviews and meeting with professional bankers. It sparked their curiosity about responsible financial decisions and they learned that they have many options depending on their financial goals. 

To tie it all together, students ended the unit with a reflection of what they learned and we asked if there was anything they would do differently next time. The general consensus was pride. Proud of their hard work and proud of their new skills and understanding. For me, this is CLA’s education philosophy at its best. We are creating informed and confident students with skills they can use as adults.

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