Schools embrace financial literacy program
A financial literacy program called Banzai has made its way into the curriculum of Henrico County Public Schools and is meant to expose students to financial responsibilities.
Henrico Federal Credit Union started sponsoring the financial literacy program in 2012, and its engagement in the program gives teachers the opportunity to provide an innovative, high-quality experience to their students at no cost.
“The goal was to focus on improving financial literacy for the rising generations who would soon be facing financial decision in their lives,” said Banzai spokesperson Rachel Yentes. “This program also creates a relationship between students and their sponsor, who can help them with financial decisions in the future. Banzai is fun and engaging, which helps students to enjoy learning about financial literacy and most importantly, remember what they are learning.”
Banzai allows students using the program to be exposed to real-life scenarios through which they learn to pay bills and balance a budget, instead of simply discussing financial responsibilities.
Stacie Davis teaches economics and personal finance at Hermitage High School and was one of the first teachers to truly embrace the program. Davis thinks the integration of the financial literacy program into Henrico schools has been successful.
“So far schools, parents, and students have fully supported the program,” Davis said. “The ultimate goal is to have these students educated in financial literacy and become financially stable, healthy, and contributing citizens that help the economy without getting in a lifetime of debt. This program has been successful because it can, and will, be used by every person in their lifetime. Students can’t deny that the material they learned is going to be used.”
The interactive program also figures in the unexpected financial issues that happen in every-day life – such as parking tickets, interest charges and overdraft fees – and requires students to manage them. The program introduces students to auto loans, bank statements, entertainment costs, savings and more.
“There is a lot about finances that I wish I would have known after graduating high school,” said Yentes. “This younger generation needs to learn about the basics of budgeting, insurance, loans, and saving before they graduate because they don’t realize how much responsibility they will have. The better prepared and aware that they are, the smarter their decisions will be as they decide how to finance their first car or take out a loan for college.”
The program was developed for 13- to 18-year-olds, and the amount of time it takes to complete Banzai depends upon a student’s financial literacy and experience. Banzai’s online program is supplemented by printed workbooks, which align with state curriculum requirements for personal finance education. Finance is required in Henrico County’s curriculum and is primarily offered to tenth-grade students, but there are students present from every grade.
Davis believes one of the most important components of the financial literacy program is that it is interactive and uses real life examples to help students explore financial literacy.
“These experiences allow them to explore, ask questions, and make mistakes before it becomes life-changing,” said Davis. “It helps them build confidence, apply practical skills and exhibit sensible behaviors related to money management. There have been times students struggled with understanding a concept because they were young.”
Banzai was named the National Curriculum of the Year by the Institute of Financial Literacy this past year and works with about 15,000 teachers in every state.
Henrico Federal Credit Union operates student branches at three Henrico high schools – Deep Run, Henrico and Hermitage – and also works with students in the classroom.
Teachers interested in using the Banzai program can visit teachbanzai.com or call 888-8-BANZAI.