John Yoho a Career & Technology Education teacher and Virtual Learning Mentor at Brunswick High, in Frederick County, Maryland, is a long time user of Budget Challenge. For several years, thousands of students have had the opportunity to participate in the program thanks to the generosity of Jennifer Allen. Her company, J Allen and Associates CPA has provided full funding for all high schools in the entire Frederick County Public School District to participate in Budget Challenge. He recently shared the impact that the simulation has had on his students throughout the years.
What has been your favorite part of Budget Challenge as a teacher?
Each semester as my classes begin Budget Challenge there is a sense of complete overwhelment from the majority of my students. Even as I reassure them that we will work through the simulation together. It is a lot to comprehend especially for our freshmen and sophomores. Without fail though many of my students have the 'light bulb' moment when they get the routines of the Budget Challenge Simulation! My favorite moments are a combination of students understanding the ins and outs of budgeting, cash flow management, and paying bills as well as the conversations that it initiates in their homes. I often get communication from parents about how thankful they are for Budget Challenge and for the life skills it has introduced their son or daughter to!
What is the biggest challenge as a teacher when using Budget Challenge?
The biggest challenge as a teacher when implementing Budget Challenge is the intense onboarding that it requires for my classes. Most students have very little knowledge of budgeting or paying bills prior to our Budget Challenge experience so the introduction and initiation to Budget Challenge requires a good amount of time and energy. Although this challenge also provides big returns! It is easy to see the value of the simulation when students make connections to future adulting concepts.
Having used Budget Challenge for several years now, what difference do you think it is making in the lives of your students?
Immensely! Students have the opportunity through Budget Challenge to experience what it's like to earn a paycheck, allocate funds, pay bills, save for retirement, manage a credit card balance -- these are invaluable skills. I tell my classes all the time, even if they aren't in the top of our leaderboard they are still learning invaluable skills. They have the opportunity to make "financial mistakes" without it costing real money! This is huge! I can't say enough about the impact I believe that Budget Challenge has on these future adults. I've even had students participate with Budget Challenge multiple times in different classes. This is where you can clearly see the future impact - when students are participating the second or third time and they know what to expect and how to navigate the platform they do significantly better - a sample of what it will be like for them when they are navigating their own finances!
How do students engage with Budget Challenge differently from traditional materials?
Budget Challenge is real-world, practical learning at it's finest. Students engage with Budget Challenge in the closest way possible to setting up a checking account, seeing deposits, and paying bills. The format of earning Trophies and the life skills learned as a result are essential. The conversations as a result of Budget Challenge are hopefully ones that they will recall numerous times as they are becoming established adults with paychecks and bills.
Are there any tips you can give to new teachers using Budget Challenge?
Be patient with your students! I always have to remind myself that I've been handling these financial situations for a long time and they are experiencing a budget, navigating a cash flow sheet, and paying bills for the first time. You will have to overstate everything. I always play Budget Challenge along with them so that I am reminded of everything they are experiencing! Participate with them and have ALL of the conversations. You never know when one of the conversations will save your students real money in the future!
Do you have a Budget Challenge story that is especially memorable?
Probably the most memorable stories are when students who have previously participated in Budget Challenge reach out to share how their experience has impacted them. Whether they are starting to save for retirement, establishing their first bank account or paying bills. I've had numerous students this year share with me that they opened their own bank accounts as a result of the Budget Challenge Simulation. Some of them even passing along that they have started investing!
I've been teaching personal finance for almost ten years and Budget Challenge is by far the best thing that I have found for navigating these topics and skills with students. I truly believe that Budget Challenge is having a huge impact on our students and will hopefully save them time, money, and potentially stressful situations moving into adulthood!