As Department Head of 11 guidance counselors at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, MA, Aimee Bronhard is one busy person. But, even just a few minutes on the phone with her makes one thing clear — Aimee is focused on ensuring that every student in her school has a healthy understanding of the real financial cost of living life.
"My passion started when I noticed kids didn't have an understanding of where to go with their careers," says Bronhard. "They also have unrealistic expectations of what they plan to spend money on. My goal is to help students align their academic achievement with their career plans."
Bronhard started as a guidance counselor at B.M.C. Durfee, but has been department chair for six years. As a Class of 1998 B.M.C. Durfee alumna, Bronhard is not only personally passionate about the school but feels compelled to "give back to the community."
Three years ago, Bronhard was approached by Monica Curhan, Vice President of Marketing for Bay Coast Bank (formerly Citizens-Union Savings Bank), about holding a "Credit for Life" Fair at the school. This innovative event model gives students the chance to play the role of a 25-year-old adult in his or her career of choice. Each student must visit 12 booths during the fair, where they make financial decisions around housing, clothing, food, transportation, retirement and other topics. Watch this video about the event.
Bronhard explains, "The 'Credit for Life' Fair gives students a realistic and first-hand understanding of what their parents have to go through to pay their bills. They learn about budgeting and how much education is required for different careers. For some students, college seems unrealistic. Others want to go out into the world to be artists. The Fair gives these students real 'a-hah' moments by letting them live the life they want based on a real starting salary, where they learn to manage their lives and money."
Bronhard credits Curhan as bringing the "Credit for Life" program to B.M.C. Durfee High School's junior class students. Now in its third year, the Fair reaches approximately 500 teens annually and involves 200 volunteers from local banks and businesses around the community. Students are exposed to several classroom-based activities, such as career exploration through their history classes; salary calculations in their math classes; and an essay contest in their English/Language Arts class following the Fair. Bronhard says that while she rallies students and staff at the school, Curhan complements her efforts by bringing in professionals from the financial and business communities.
Many of the students who have participated in the "Credit for Life" Fair have said it was the best educational event they experienced in their four years of high school. Bronhard says the school hosts a big, winter fundraiser where some of the money is used to give each student a black, leather portfolio where they can store their resumes in order to look professional. It is a "badge of pride — a walk away" gift that reminds the students of what they accomplished by going through the program.
When asked what keeps her motivated, Bronhard responds, "Whenever you can get a reaction from kids that the activity and their overall experience is positive and relevant, you've got a good thing on your hands. It helps when you get lots of excitement from other community members; you don't feel like you are the only cheerleader."
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Aimee Bronhard for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at B.M.C. Durfee High School.