Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

A Back-to-School Reading List

The Port City Notebook took an unexpected hiatus this summer, but will be back publishing on a regular basis very soon. Thank you for your continued interest!

Meanwhile, I’ve collected a few items to highlight as the end of summer draws near and the start of the new school year approaches:

Teens and Money

My good friend Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine and a leading authority on the subject of kids and money, recently published a series of online columns about financial literacy. This topic is relevant to parents and students alike, now that all high-schoolers in the state of Virginia are required to take an economics and personal finance course to graduate.

moneytreeThe first column in Janet’s series looks at how U.S. teens rank in financial literacy. The second one explores how financial literacy can be taught in schools, and the third one gives tips to parents on how to teach their kids about money. (Full disclosure: My daughters, both of whom took an online version of the economics and personal finance course this past school year at T.C. Williams, and I were interviewed for the articles.)

I share Janet’s ambivalence about requiring students to take a personal finance course when there are already so many other demands on their schedule. About a third of the states mandated such a course after the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which was exacerbated in part by many homebuyers’ lack of understanding about risky mortgage products.

My own first lessons in personal finance came from my parents, primarily my father, who spent his career as a community banker. For him, failing to balance your checkbook every month might as well be one of the seven deadly sins! But some parents lack the financial know-how themselves to equip their kids to be financially savvy as adults—even employers find it challenging to educate employees about the importance of saving for retirement—and a required course could help fill in the gaps. On the other hand, the jury is still out on whether students who take these courses will make smarter financial decisions over the course of their lives. All things considered, the personal finance course requirement probably does less harm than good.

Mental Health First Aid Classes Available in Alexandria

A recent editorial in the Alexandria Times highlighted the need for more people to be trained to spot signs of mental illness. That training—mental health first aid classes—is offered here in Alexandria through the city’s Community Services Board. There’s even a separate course for those who work primarily with youth.

Amy Thomas, a parent of two rising seniors at T.C. who has both teaching and substitute teaching experience, completed the mental health first aid course for those who work with youth earlier this year. “The class gave me the tools and resources to link a teen in crisis with the right professional,” says Amy. Teachers, coaches, scout leaders, tutors, mentors and clergy who work with youth all could benefit from the training.

You can learn more about the mental health first aid training for youth and adults here, and you can register for adult and youth mental health first aid training sessions offered through June 2015 here.

Parting is Difficult

Finally, for those of you who are sending a freshman off to college, or already dreading that day in the near future, I highly recommend this recent essay by columnist Michael Gerson in the Washington Post. He is a gifted writer and beautifully captures this rite of passage from a parent’s perspective.

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