Monday, February 13, 2017

Sparta DECA hosts Finance Your Future

      On January 12, 2017 three members of Sparta's DECA chapter hosted Finance Your Future, an interactive class to help students better understand the process of financial aid. Finance Your Future was a financial literacy promotion chapter project that was designed, initiated and executed by Christian Xenakis, Hannah Fagersten and Elise Kerim.

     The purpose of Finance Your Future was to solve the issue concerning the lack of knowledge on financial aid and scholarship opportunities. The three student leaders conducted primary research to verify the need for a financial aid information class, in which the results showed on a scale of 1-5 (1 being none, 5 being maximum) seniors rated their level of financial aid knowledge as a two and did not know what a 529 Plan was, nor did they know about the CSS Profile. The student leaders spent three months planning the class and working hard to educate themselves on financial aid, even meeting with Sparta High School's guidance department. 

     At the night of the event, as students entered the MRC, they joined the Finance Your Future Google Classroom and filled out a pre-survey. Once everyone had arrived, the student leaders presented a brief PowerPoint regarding the basics on all the tools to help pay for college. The class then broke into three equal groups and rotated throughout each station: one helped students get acquainted with the FAFSA, a second for scholarship opportunities, and the third station educated students on the CSS Profile. Although the class was run by the student leaders, two adult advisors assisted at Finance Your Future, Mrs. Sandy Chiappini and Mr. Christopher Sima. Chiappini is Sparta High School's DECA advisor; after working in the business world, she has taught law, finance and marketing. Sima is an AP history and economics teacher. Both adult advisors helped the class run in a smooth manner. 

          The FAFSA group went through a blown up version of the FAFSA application, emphasizing important terms and teaching helpful "life hack" type tips to the students while addressing common questions students typically have when filling out the FAFSA. The CSS Profile is another service to provide college students with financial aid that is provided by College Board, the organization that administers the SAT and AP exams. The CSS Profile group went through a similar blown up application and provided students with a pre-application worksheet, which helps guide the student in filling out the CSS Profile form in a more efficient manner. The scholarship group provided Sparta students scholarship search websites, one that builds a complete profile for the student based on their academic standing, interested major and personal interests. This group also explained the benefits of being enrolled in AP classes. Each student leader answered all questions the participants had with confidence and accuracy.

     After there was a full rotation of the groups, student participants filled out the post-survey. The post-survey proved an overwhelming amount of students learned useful information in a fun manner that they would otherwise not know and the student leaders did an exceptional job. The students learned more than they had anticipated to learn from their peers. The night ended with pizza, drinks and desserts for the student participants. The leaders encourage students to utilize the Finance Your Future Google Classroom at the time they fill out their financial aid. The Google Classroom has useful tools such as additional scholarship searches, a FAFSA estimation guide and the CSS Profile pre-application.

     Due to its success, Sparta DECA is extremely proud of the event and plans to host Finance Your Future next year as well. This year, Finance Your Future only allotted a maximum of ten students; as a result of its success, next year more students will be urged to sign-up. Finance Your Future was only intended to be used as Hannah, Elise and Christian's DECA project, but after analyzing the results from the post-survey and discussing with students, it was decided that the event would be hosted in years to come to benefit the student body in their future endeavors. The student leaders will present the event and their findings at the DECA state competition in Atlantic City, NJ on February 22. 

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