High School’s Credit For Life Fair Teaches Real World Lessons

The ‘Consequence Wheel’ was just one of the many stations Haverhill High School Juniors visited during Thursday’s Credit for Life event. The student spinning it hopes it will land on a windfall space – a tax refund or an inheritance. More likely, though, it will land on an expenditure, like an unexpected excise tax bill. In this way, the consequence wheel challenges students to think about money in ways they may not have before. (WHAV News photograph)

On Thursday, April 12, Haverhill High School students participated in a “Credit For Life” fair that strives to teach students about managing money and balancing a budget. The event was established five years ago as part of a $60,000 grant secured through the state for financial literacy. This allowed the school to add Money Matters and other personal finance classes to the class offerings, with an additional $2,500 per year granted to cover the cost of this event.

“This is gonna teach them what the real numbers look like when they get out of college and how expensive things really are,” said Lori Capra, who teaches the Money Matters class at Haverhill High and is one of the event coordinators.

One hundred juniors were randomly selected to participate in the event where they met with volunteers from local vendors such as Men’s Wearhouse, Costello Insurance and Emmaus House where students could apply for real volunteer opportunities.

Students were randomly assigned a salary and a credit score and asked to move from station to station making decisions about how to spend their imaginary income. The vendors conducted mock interviews and presented the students with real-life scenarios that challenged them to make some of the same financial choices they will need to make in their future such as what type of phone or car to buy, and how much money to save as well as some more insidious costs, as well.

For instance, at the nutrition table, culinary and fashion teacher, Beth Tilden, challenged students to consider what type of diet they would like to eat in the future. Would they like to eat an all-organic diet with a price tag of $600 per month, or will they clip coupons and eat macaroni and cheese for about $400 less? In her opinion, it’s “better to have your money in the bank than in your belly,” she said.

Cedardale’s Mary Lynch manned a table again this year to talk to students about their health and fitness needs. “Are they motivated to do it on their own and not pay a thing, or are they going to join a basic club, or something higher end with more amenities?” she asks them.

This is the first time the event has been held at the high school. In past years, it was held at Northern Essex Community College and was open only to the students in the Money Matters classes. Moving it to the high school this year and using the random selection of students allowed many more students to participate.

One such student, Temiloluwa Oduntan, talked about how most students are in a hurry to start earning a paycheck, without realizing how much of it they will have to give away. “Some of us don’t know what’s gonna come with all the money we’re gonna get. It’s not just gonna be for us, we’re gonna pay for some stuff – for food, to live, to survive,” she said. Even with a monthly income of $6,208, she found it hard to budget. “…rent, insurance, phone, bills, it just adds up and the money is gone.”

Besides learning how fast a paycheck can go, many students, such as Courtney Venditti, learned how credit scores work. “My credit score was 738 which I realize is pretty good – the higher the better – and I didn’t realize what that meant until now.”

Business Department Dean Susan Finn is responsible for securing the grant that makes this event possible. “[One] thing we do that a lot of other Credit for Life Fairs don’t do is we have actual vendors. A lot of them use faculty but we got the actual vendors to come and they’re all from Haverhill and they come every year and it’s great that they do,” she said.

Prizes of free tickets to the junior social were awarded to Devon Cunningham and Emma Atwood for being the most outstanding participants.

Students Matt Maginnis and Andrew Delica, won the interview challenge and free suit rentals courtesy of Men’s Wearhouse.

Honorable mention went to Yenisa Defex, Kristen Clohesy, Briana Rodriguez, Isabella Whelan, Courtney Venditti, and Alan Millien

Event volunteers included Auto Fair Ford Haverhill, Men’s Wearhouse, Canobie Lake Park, Emmaus House, Coldwell Banker, Costello Insurance, and Cedardale Health and Fitness and the event was sponsored by Haverhill Bank.