Starting economic education early

The San Diego Center for Economic Education at Cuyamaca College works to keep kids out of debt.

Workshops aimed at promoting financial literacy from kindergarten to community college. Collaborating with the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility to educate prisoners nearing parole on the ins and outs of managing their finances. A partnership with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California to bring lessons on credit card debt to classrooms throughout San Diego County.

The San Diego Center for Economic Education at Cuyamaca College is engaged in all that and more, far exceeding expectations when it was formed 10 years ago to disseminate financial literacy programs to teachers and students throughout the region. One of the missions of the center is to provide teaching resources to instructors in an effort at meeting state mandates—such as 1985 legislation that students complete a semester course in economics before graduating from high school.

“The San Diego Center for Economic Education is having a profound impact in making students throughout San Diego County financially literate,” said Anthony Zambelli, a former Cuyamaca College economics professor who serves as the Center for Economic Education’s director. “The center provides a variety of quality programs, classes and workshops that enable teachers to help students meet California State Standards in Economics and to have the practical knowledge and skills necessary to become vital members of the local and global economy.”

Zambelli said the college has supported the center by offering its facilities and services to him at no additional cost.

The nonprofit, which is affiliated with the California Council on Economic Education, celebrated those efforts during a 10th anniversary reception on May 3.

Among the council’s most ambitious projects is helping San Diego Unified School District high schools update their financial literacy curriculum, a project funded through a $161,533 state grant. Training will be provided to 50 economics teachers at more than two dozen San Diego Unified high schools in the latest methods and theories in financial literacy, and updated books on personal finance will be distributed to local classrooms.

About 8,000 high school students will benefit from the training each year. Professional development training is being funded by Discover Financial Services’ “Pathway to Financial Success” program, a five-year, $10-million commitment to bring updated financial education curriculum into public high schools across the country.