Whether they’re ready or not, students will be out in the real world before they know it. One major aspect of the real world is managing one’s own money by the use of a budget, while also having a bank account and knowing the ins and outs of it.
But students throughout Lebanon County will now be prepared for financial challenges the real world can bring through a nationwide, award-winning program called Banzai. It is sponsored locally by Lebanon Federal Credit Union, for local schools including Lebanon Catholic, Lebanon High School and Middle School, Cedar Crest High School and Middle School, and Elco High School and Middle School.
Banzai is a two-week, online program implemented in each school’s business/finance classes, which are electives. There’s four steps to complete the course. The first is a pre-test to gauge students’ initial level of understanding, followed by students working through life scenarios introducing them to the curriculum. The students then play a game of real-life simulation where they apply what they learned, making various tradeoffs and decisions in order to reach their end goal of saving $2,000 for college. Then a post-test is administered, and students receive a certificate upon passing.
“Once schools sign up for the program, the materials are mailed to me and then I reach out to the teacher and meet with them to go over everything with them,” said Wendy Kalbach, director of Community and Business Development for Lebanon Federal Credit Union. “Then I go into the classrooms and talk about the differences between a bank and a credit union, how credit unions are community oriented and how you become a member, and about our services. I also talk to them about the differences between a debit and credit card, and budgeting, and other things.”
And serving the community and working closely with all Lebanon County schools on this subject is a big part of why the credit union is sponsoring the program.
“We want our credit union them to be local, loyal, Lebanon,” Kalbach said. “Our CEO is very big on that. We want to be in the schools and community and let people and our schools know we’re here for them.”
But it was actually Banzai who reached out to the credit union seeing if they would be interested in sponsoring the program.
“We did some meetings over the phone and we though it be a good fit for our credit union. We like how it’s a short class and how its online for students to use,” said Kalbach. “The school districts seem to like it, they think it’s a great program. The students like it. It’s very informative for them.”
One Lebanon County school that implemented the program into their curriculum two years ago is Lebanon High School. One of those teachers utilizing it in the classroom is Andrew Dornes, who teaches personal finance, accounting, marketing, and computer technology at Lebanon.
“Our department chair Karen Haitos introduced me to the Banzai program. When we were looking to redesign the curriculum in personal finance, we thought this would be a good thing since we have a local source in the credit union who can come into the classroom,” Dornes said, who’s in his fifth year teaching, including four at Lebanon. “It’s a very interactive and modern program. Students get the chance to live real-life scenarios like paying rent, and making car payments.”
Besides receiving the certificate when they finish the program, students do get graded for some of their work that counts towards their final grade in their classes.
“We only grade the life scenarios and the game,” Dornes said. “Once they finish, they also get the certificate they can take to the credit union to open up a savings account with a 25-dollar deposit.”
Another great thing about the program – students don’t have to be math wizards to complete the program successfully.
“Basic levels of math will do. The main focus that we look is being able to design things like and income and expense statement for yourself,” Dornes said. “We talk about different sections of and what you would need to compile it. Then there’s the basic adding and subtracting on that.”
And the curriculum can only continue to grow from here.
“So far I’ve visited and presented to 21 different classes in the past year. It seems to be taking off,” Kalbach said. “The plan is to continue to spread the word and keep building our relationships with the schools.”