In the spring of 2021, Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder, and Superintendent Marcus Chambers started the Okaloosa Youth Leadership council as a way to promote leadership through the school system. This group, including juniors and seniors from Crestview, Laurel Hill, Baker, Fort Walton Beach, Choctawhatchee and Niceville High School, discuss issues that are impactful to them in both the school system and in the county as a whole.

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Okaloosa Commissioner Mel Ponder Addresses the School Board

The students decided the lack of financial literacy was a major issue in their school curriculum.

At Monday’s (April 11th) School Board Meeting, Layla Seaton, the Vice-Chair for the Okaloosa County Youth Leadership Council and a student at Fort Walton Beach High School made the council’s case for a district-wide mandatory financial literacy course. She argued the class should be required to graduate from Okaloosa County Schools.

In response to Seaton’s presentation, Chambers said,“One of the things that we are extremely proud of is the fact that though [financial literacy coursework] has now become state law, the youth leadership council had the foresight back in the first semester to already be thinking about this…that’s vision and thoughtfulness from our students and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year mandating financial literacy courses be taught in public schools.

The state will not require financial literacy coursework until the 2023-2024 school year; however, the high schools in the Okaloosa School District will provide students the opportunity to voluntarily take a semester-long financial literacy course in the upcoming school year.

The Okaloosa Youth Leadership Council proposed that the course should include topics such as budgeting, saving, investing and limiting debt. “Once this foundation is established, students can create healthy money habits at a young age and possibly avoid mistakes as adults that can lead to life long financial struggles,” the council’s presentation added.

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