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Posted: May 01, 2009

On management: So the kid says to me…

Lessons learned teaching classes to high school seniors

Pat Wiesner

So the kid says to me …
“How much money do you make?”

I told him. Then I told him that it wasn’t quite fair because I was retired and the more interesting question was just how was I still making money when I wasn’t working. “I want to be a salesman,” the kid says. “I want to make a bundle! I know what I have do, and that’s learn to be a good talker!”

What do you think I told him?

*   *   *

For years I’ve threatened to do some classes for Junior Achievement, the national organization that teaches middle- and high-school kids about business and why it is relevant to their lives. I was on and off involved with JA when my own were in high school, and I was on some committees. But I never really did anything but talk about it and donate a little money. I’m retired now, and I truly enjoyed every minute of my business life, and I’ve always supported JA. But I’ve never stood in front of the kids in a classroom and talked business from my point of view. I think I was kind of intimidated, didn’t want to be eaten alive by a bunch of 15-year-olds.

So this past winter I finally volunteered. A series of five classes, once a week for five weeks. A class of seniors at a high school in Douglas County. The subject was personal finance. One class each for budgeting, investing, credit, identity protection and insurance. There was a 55-year difference, plus or minus a few years, between the kids and me. (The first thing I learned was that it never seemed to come into the equation.)

*   *   *

“How do you know when stocks are going up or going down?”

We had lively discussions about the market! We googled many companies and then projected the charts on a white board, and they asked a million questions, some of which I had answers to. They were most interested in Microsoft and Apple and Google and other high-tech companies that had sold them lots of product.

There were 20 or so kids in the class and a first-class home room teacher who, at the end of the class, were set to form an investment club so they could watch a little of their own money go up and down in the market. By the way, the teacher is always in the room. Very comforting.

“Who in this class would like to go to college?”

Almost all raised their hand. But I think that many might need help seeing themselves giving it a real try.

”What do you mean, ‘Pay yourself first’?” one student asked after the class on budgeting.

 “Here is my plan to go to college,” said a bright young lady who thought she was using the system properly just like the big guys on Wall Street. “After high school I’ll get a student loan, go to college, then after I graduate I’ll file for bankruptcy!”

She had a big smile. She didn’t have the money for college, she didn’t think, so she was just doing what she saw in the newspaper. She wasn’t stopped for a minute when she found out you could not go bankrupt on the federal government. She was merely deterred for a moment before she went off in a new direction to solve her money problem.

Great kids, a superb and dedicated permanent teacher, very effective syllabus and teaching materials, supported and funded by ACE (Alternative Cooperative Education) and Junior Achievement. Just a terrific program that does a lot of good.
Want to get your heart started? Call (303) 534-5252 (in metro Denver) and talk to someone at Junior Achievement Colorado about being a teaching volunteer, or visit www.jacolorado.org for more information. 

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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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Readers Respond

PAT: For years I have been developing my list of things to do when I retire (work in a National Park, drive a tour bus, teach?) and just added this. Thanks for many great ideas that are captured in my Wiesner file. Are you ever going to put all of your "on Management" thoughts and editorial into a book?? Thanks Jim By Jim Remley on 2009 05 19

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