What Personal Finance Education Looks Like for our Next Generation of Students

Marie Perry, Communications Director for the School District of Belleville

Students in Personal Finance engage in “real-life” financial activities to teach them budgeting strategies. Photo courtesy of Marie Perry


James Pickett, 7th-12th grade Business & Marketing Education teacher, has worked to redefine what personal finance education looks like as we prepare Belleville High School students to take their next steps in life and make practical decisions now for their financial futures.  A strong understanding of finance is a crucial part of an individual’s success and understanding how to put our money to its best use is critical.  There is no better time or place in life to begin to acquire these skills than during one’s high school years.

Pickett says, “This year I have taken over the Personal Finance & Careers class, which is a required class for all high school students.  I chose to start using Next Gen Personal Finance in my class.  It’s a great curriculum resource that I have used for a number of years in my previous school.”

In Pickett’s view, Personal Finance is one of the most important classes that students can take as the topics covered will resonate with their lives after high school.  In Personal Finance, students will study Banking, Managing Credit, Investing, Insurance, Taxes, Careers, Paying for College, Budgeting, and Consumer Skills.

In a recent classroom activity asking students to budget for a month on $1,000 while working an entry level job, students were heard saying:

“Why are kids so expensive?”

“It costs that much?!”

“I don’t need the fancy things.”

“I’m broke!”

A course like this offers a chance for Belleville students to practice making financial decisions and see the results before they take the financial risk after they have graduated and literally have to pay for the consequences of their actions!

District Administrator Nate Perry recently surveyed Belleville High School graduates from 2018 and 2022 about their experiences at BHS.  He notes, “One common theme from the graduate surveys was a request for more financial literacy lessons while in high school.  This also came through in the spring School Perceptions survey results from parents.  Mr. Pickett, with all of his experience and knowledge, was a logical choice to take on this task.”

In the United States, there is a strong, nationwide push to make Personal Finance a required class for all high school students and James Pickett echoes this trend:  “Personally, I think it is the most important class that any student can take.  ALL students will need to know the skills learned in a Personal Finance class.”

Selecting Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) (https://www.ngpf.org) as his curriculum, Pickett feels confident that his students in Belleville will be ready for the 21st century when it comes to financial education and, in return, NGPF has recognized Picket and BHS for leading the pack in Wisconsin and nationally.

NGPF Director of Partnerships & Advocacy Christian Sherill says:  “Leading financial education nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) has recognized Belleville High School as one of 199 NGPF Gold Standard Schools in WI because we require a standalone personal finance course!  With 23 states - and quickly growing - now requiring this course for all high school students, NGPF celebrates the high schools, like Belleville, that are ahead of this exciting trend.  Congratulations to Belleville High School for teaching real-life skills like budgeting, credit management, career preparation and beyond!”

For education to be practical and effective, one must know the needs of their students and the School District of Belleville is listening.  Right now, Wisconsin is working to make personal finance education a standalone graduation requirement statewide, but Belleville High School is leading the pack under the direction of their Business & Marketing Education teacher James Pickett.  So, as they take this key financial course, students will graduate with practical knowledge of how to prepare for their financial futures providing them with a skill set to make knowledgeable decisions about money that will affect their futures.  Belleville High School enjoys this opportunity to be in the forefront in helping to shape meaningful educational opportunities for all of their students and establishing financial education in this manner will only further benefit its students as they set out into the world.