More than 100 Harrison County sophomores took a trip to the Meadowbrook Mall on Tuesday. Not to shop, but to learn.
"I've learned a lot about stocks and bonds, what they are and how to use them. And I learned about how to protect myself against several types of financial fraud," said Ashley Mitchem, a sophomore from Bridgeport High School.
Mitchem joined students from the five public high schools and Notre Dame who took part in a financial literacy program called Mallopoly: Financial Literacy Pilot Program. The pilot was sponsored by the mall, the Harrison County School system and the state Auditor's Office.
"What an opportunity for our students to have some fun by using a hands-on approach to learn how the stock market works or to learn about savings," said Susan Collins, administrative assistant in charge of adolescent education.
The students spent the day moving from classroom to classroom set up throughout the mall to hear financial experts speak on topics ranging from how to spot a financial scam to the magic of compounding.
Each student was given a specified amount of "funny money," bills depicting school administrators, that they could spend at the Stock Market Game display.
"I knew something about finances before I came, but I know a lot more now," said Keith Linger, from South Harrison High School.
According to Glen Gainer II, state auditor and commissioner of securities, the earlier that students learn about finances, the better off they will be when they go off to college or head out to work.
National statistics show that 10 percent of the people who filed for bankruptcy last year were under the age of 25.
"Kids can ruin their credit, in some cases, for the next 10 years. It's really a matter of just getting them educated," he said.
Gainer lives in Wood County, and said a lack of economics classes at the high school level was an impetus for the Mallopoly program.
"When looking at my son's curriculum choices in high school, I noticed there was not one thing about financial literacy for kids. That's what got me involved," he said.
Gainer said children aren't often taught at home about managing finances because parents may feel they don't have enough information. He cited as proof a national survey that said one in three American households were victimized last year by some form of economic fraud.
Gainer said he hopes to see Mallopoly taught to more students around the state.
"A program such as this will empower these students with a lot of information that they will hopefully take home to their moms and dads," Gainer said.