Right now more than 70% of Vermont high school students are not required to take a personal finance class to graduate, but for students in Winooski, it is mandatory.

Students sitting in Ms. Courtney Poquette’s class at Winooski High are already planning out their financial futures.

“Out of all my classes, it feels like the most useful,” said Alexis Blend, a sophomore.

Poquette teaches business and personal finance and says she believes students are getting the message. She says she starts each class by asking the students what they would do if they had $1 million. “They write this huge thing they would buy and by the end of the semester, they say if I invest and bought the returns, I could still have a million dollars.”

Blend says the class has helped her advocate at work. “I have direct deposit so my paycheck goes directly into my account,” she said. “I never looked at it before, which is so frustrating looking back because now that I looked at it, I’m like I should have been paid more or less.”

A new addition to Poquette’s class this year is a student-run candy shop, which allows students to apply what they learn in real life by deciding what items they can afford.

Poquette has been teaching the personal finance class for over 15 years. It started as an elective but is now required to graduate in Winooski schools.

However, only 20% of Vermont districts require the class and in many cases, it’s the marginalized communities who don’t have access to this kind of education.

“Schools with students who qualify for free and reduced lunch over 75% are less likely to get this class than their peers who don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch,” said Poquette. She also said that schools with a large majority of black and Hispanic students also are less likely to get financial education compared to their neighboring schools.

Jessica Pelletier, from Next Gen Personal Finance, says students aren’t the only ones who benefit, as parents can get involved as well. “We created a game called ‘Fit Money Super Squad’. We want to meet kids where they’re learning and sometimes that’s in school or at home,” she said.

However, lawmakers want to ensure schools have the proper resources before implementing the requirement.

There’s also an effort in the Vermont Statehouse to change things. Treasurer Mike Piecack supports House Bill 288, which would require all Vermont public high school students to take a personal finance class in order to graduate.