Atchison High School has been among more than a dozen high schools to take part in Banzai, a financial literacy program sponsored by Frontier Community Credit Union, during the 2016-17 school year.
According to Nicholas Stillwell, business essentials teacher, he first heard about the program through the mail. After investigating further, he decided to give the program a try.
According to one of Stillwell’s students, Katherine McCoole, the program gave students real life experience through software to show adult dilemmas ranging from managing debt to making tradeoffs.
Another student said that every choice they made had consequences.
“If you went with the cheap car, you ended up having to buy a new one,” she said.
The class agreed that a lot of the scenarios were decisions that teens would make, including going to the movies or going to a restaurant.
Aside from a couple bugs, the only negative comment the class shared was the limited choice of scenarios. This led to students sharing among themselves what was coming up in a particular scenario. This comment told Letha Higgins, the project/communications director for Frontier, that “everyone wanted to succeed and they were learning from the program from the beginning.”
Stillwell said the students seemed to enjoy the game aspect of the program more than the book, as it allowed them to make choices and see the effects of those choices, as opposed to just going along with what the book said.
“It was interesting to watch and listen,” Stillwell said. “The kids that might give the worst feedback, might have gotten the most wrapped up in it, and got the most out of it and just don’t know it. They were the ones fighting it and hated the scenarios; they’re like, ‘Why is this person such an idiot?’”
Stillwell said he held the program in the middle of the semester, giving students a bit of background in the middle of the financial world to begin with.
He conducted the pre-test and post-tests, and found that a quarter of the class improved over the course of the program, half did almost exactly the same and the last quarter actually did worse. This, he said, was probably just because they wanted to get it over with.
Stillwell said he thought it would be interesting to hold the program at the start of the year next time.
“Don’t give them anything, just say here you go, let’s see where you’re at, and then a couple months later do all my normal stuff as follow-up,” Stillwell said.
According to information given by Higgins, this will be the second year Frontier has sponsored the program. During the 2015-16 school year, 12 schools, with 620 students total, participated. This year, that number has increased to 14 schools and 700 students. The stats said this includes four re-orders from last year, five new high schools, three middle schools and two alternative schools.
Higgins said that, in January, the program would be rolling out an elementary program, because people “can’t start teaching financial literacy too soon.”