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How community leaders are bringing personal finance into the classroom – CNBC

At CNBC’s America’s Financial Education town hall, community leaders from across the nation were honored for their commitment to educating students about financial literacy.

Currently, only 21 states require financial literacy to be taught in high school classrooms. While there is a growing push for more students to get personal finance education, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, CNBC + Acorns is honoring current financial literacy leaders, most of whom work in underserved communities. Each recognized leader received $100 in an Acorns account and a financial literacy leadership digital badge.

Nick Teglas

Shelly Heath

In 2020, outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. reached a whopping $14.88 trillion, according to data from Experian. Shelly Heath, a high school teacher from Boise, Idaho, believes that ever-growing consumer debt is just one reason why her students need financial literacy education — now more than ever.

Since attending the Jump$tart National Educator Conference in 2019, Heath has increased her personal finance courses at Boise High School to six sessions every semester, up from just two.

With a keen eye for saving, Heath regularly writes grants to provide her students with an up-to-date curriculum without spending the school district’s money.

Joe Tarantello

As a teacher and cross-country coach, Joe Tarantello has revitalized his Boston-area high school’s personal finance curriculum, transforming what was once a languishing business education department and launching a new yearly tradition.

This updated curriculum at Hingham High School in Hingham, Massachusetts, includes online simulations on the fundamentals of investing, project-based learning opportunities and community partnerships.

Tarantello has spearheaded a new tradition at his school, The Credit for Life Fair. Seniors simulate financial decisions that mirror choices they will soon be faced with post-graduation. Over the past six years, Tarantello has seen a steady increase in financial literacy enrollment and hired additional teaching staff to meet the growing demand.

Invest in You: Grow America's Financial Education

Watch: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on mask mandates, student loan forgiveness and financial education in elementary schools

Megan Wolford

Buchanan County, Virginia, sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and is one of the poorest counties in the state. But that has not stopped Megan Wolford from creating one of the best personal finance courses in the country, according to W!se.

A teacher at Hurley High School in Hurley, Virginia, Wolford has made it her mission to impart the importance of financial literacy to her students. Using her own life experiences and other real-world scenarios to connect with her students, Wolford helps prepare them for life after graduation.

Anthony Raffetto

Anthony Raffetto teaches personal finance at Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California. When Raffetto isn’t teaching financial literacy, he can be found coaching teams of seniors in business and finance competitions.

In 2020, his team of four seniors won National Personal Finance Challenge. Previously his group of students won the state championship.

According to Shivaansh Kapoor, a winning member of the 2020 team, one of the most important lessons Raffetto passed on was, “The earlier you start saving, investing, putting money into retirement, the more it will grow and compound. Your investment will grow exponentially.”

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CHECK OUT: This 33-year-old online baking instructor brought in nearly $335,000 in 2020: Here’s how via Grow with Acorns+CNBC

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.