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Mission Viejo Elementary hosts Community Financial Literacy Night

Mission Viejo Community Financial Literacy NightMission Viejo Community Financial Literacy NightThe first-ever Mission Viejo Community Financial Literacy Night was held at the school on May 5. The free event attracted families from Mission Viejo, Independence and Indian Ridge elementary schools, as wells as the families of juniors and seniors from Smoky Hill High School.

The event was the brainchild of Mission Viejo fourth grade teacher Charles Kastens. He’s passionate about financial literacy, something he didn’t really understand as a teenager or young adult.

“I didn’t learn about these things growing up,” Kastens said. “When I graduated college, I was in serious debt because I didn’t know how to manage my money. It wasn’t until I changed my mindset toward money that I began to control my money, instead of my money controlling me.”

Kasten loves sharing what he learned about personal finance with his students, helping them understand concepts like budgeting, banking, saving, investing and more.

“These are the most important standards we can teach our students,” Kastens said. “No matter what our students grow up to be – a doctor, a teacher, a mechanic or a stay-at-home mom – everybody’s got to know how to manage their finances.”

That desire to help his students become financially literate extends to Mission Viejo families and the broader community. Kasten believes that the more knowledgeable adults are when it comes to money matters, the more knowledgeable their children will be. That’s why Kastens went to Mission Viejo Principal Andre Pearson last year with an idea: the Mission Viejo Community Financial Literacy Night.

Mission Viejo Community Financial Literacy Night“This is something I had always dreamed about and wanted to do, and he said ‘All right! Let’s do it!’” Kastens recalled.

So, with his principal’s blessing and support from the Mission Viejo PTCO and the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, Kastens went to work. He reached out to local financial experts including former Denver Bronco and Super Bowl 50 champion Ryan Harris.

“He is a huge advocate of financial literacy,” Kastens explained. “He’s got a great message and is very engaging.”

Harris agreed to be the event’s keynote speaker. Prince Dykes, president of Global Children Financial Literacy Foundation and host of “The Investor Show,” along with Jay LeBlanc, education program director at Economic Literacy Colorado signed on to lead breakout sessions. Financial institutions KeyBank and The District Credit Union came on board, as did more than a dozen local businesses, that also sponsored the event, provided dinner and donated door prizes.

Mission Viejo Community Financial Literacy NightChildren who attended the event got to visit the PFL (Personal Financial Literacy) Kid Zone, where they played games and joined in activities all related to making sense of dollars and cents. Adults had the opportunity to attend two of the five breakout sessions on topics ranging from financial wellness to credit and financing to investing wisely. Kastens, who has three teenage children, led a breakout session on preparing for life after graduation.

“I have three teenagers. One of them is in college and two are getting ready to go to college, so I’m living that right now,” he said.

Among those who attended the breakout sessions on investing and entrepreneurship was a young man who was one of Kastens’ students 16 years ago. Afterward, he told Kastens he's thinking about starting his own business and was excited about the information and resources he received.

“If we gave him the tools, resources and confidence to pursue his dream, it was more than worth it,” Kastens said after the event.

As our nation and our world continue to wrestle with issues like debt, inflation and economic uncertainty, personal financial literacy is more important than ever. Fortunately, Kastens and the Mission Viejo community are already thinking about hosting another financial literacy night next year!

Posted 5/13/2022.