Exposing unseen dangers

Published 12:12 am Saturday, November 1, 2014

It really is remarkable how much potential there is for disaster in so much of what teenagers do every day.

For instance, learning to drive can be deadly. In fact, the fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69, according to a 2011 study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

And the unfamiliar choices and pressures teens confront can complicate matters even more. Should they allow a friend to ride along? Have a sip of that proffered drink? Reach to turn up the radio for that favorite song?

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One of the hardest things for parents to teach their children is that simple choices like those can have life-threatening results. And then there is a whole other class of choices teens must make that are not necessarily life threatening, but instead can be life-altering.

Among the hardest lessons parents must teach about such things are the lessons about personal finances. Especially if they do not start teaching good financial stewardship when their children are very young, by the time those children become teens or young adults, they will face financial situations that could leave them remarkably vulnerable and financially weak for many years to come.

Jason Bartholomew and Jessica Smith, two economics and personal finance teachers at Nansemond River High School, understand just what’s at stake for kids just learning how to budget and spend their money for the first time.

“They haven’t had the experience of earning an income, paying their own way, dealing with tax forms,” Bartholomew said recently. “Their experience is pretty shallow, unless they come from a home that really exposes them to it.”

Recognizing that such shallow experience exposes their students to special dangers — from high-interest loans to credit card debt and other risky financial propositions — they take time to introduce them to banking and financial products, credit and loans and different types of insurance and investing.

For their efforts, the teachers have been named W!SE 2013-2014 Gold Star Teachers, after at least one of their respective classes achieved a 90-percent pass rate in the fall 2013 or spring 2014 W!SE Financial Literacy Certification Test.

There’s a new focus on financial literacy, as this year’s senior class is the first in the commonwealth to be required to pass a course on the subject in order to graduate.

The hope is that the classes will result in fewer young adults enslaved to obscene interest rates for short-term loans, fewer people throwing their money away on the lottery and more saving money and investing it.

Good teachers like Bartholomew and Smith, dedicated to exposing the potential dangers of seemingly innocuous decisions, will help achieve that dream.