A student presents her investment portfolio during a classroom session with Elmore Stoutt High School teacher Gregory Mendez, who meets with students each week for an hour to teach them about the stock market. (Photo: GREGORY MENDEZ)

Elmore Stoutt High School teacher Gregory Mendez believes that financial literacy is an essential skill that everyone should have, regardless of age or profession.

And that’s exactly what he’s been teaching his students.

As part of that effort, his students set up mock brokerage accounts that allow them to experiment with buying and selling stocks. At the end of the semester, he said, the student with the best-performing portfolio will be awarded an account with actual money in it.

“The objective is to give the students exposure earlier so that when they get out of school and they find themselves in different situations, then they’ll know how to best use our financial system,” Mr. Mendez explained. “There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do because they’re not 100 percent literate in terms of the financial system.”

He also noted that many people aren’t aware that many banks are not offering sufficient interest rates to cover inflation, and therefore students need to be equipped with the knowledge to navigate the financial system in order to maximise their returns.

Financial curriculum

Mr. Mendez has been teaching students about different “investment vehicles” for two years during sessions that are part of a financial services curriculum offered by the high school.

Grade levels

“The new setup in grade 11 makes financial services mandatory,” he explained. “In the 12th grade, everything revolves around personal financial literacy.”

The programme, he added, is similar to ones typically offered at the college level, and it involves practice buying and selling stocks to gain exposure to the markets.

Students are taught about investments that can be used to offset inflation, and they are exposed to emerging industries that present investment opportunities, he said.

Top student

To encourage students to engage with the programme, Mr. Mendez has partnered with brokerage company TradeStation to offer awards to the students who perform the best. At the end of the programme, he said, the top student will be awarded an account containing actual money.

Currently, the programme has around 200 students and meets once a week for one hour, Mr. Mendez said.