COPENHAGEN — Classes on financial literacy and personal finance management have become more popular in high schools and colleges across the U.S. following the economic crisis of the late 2000s.
While not required by the state, some high schools in New York do offer students courses to help them manage their personal finances. To help encourage financial literacy in local young people, the Northern Credit Union now sponsors the Teach Banzai program for local schools.
Assistant Vice President of Marketing at Northern Credit Union Alexa B. Bennett said that her organization sponsors Teach Banzai “because financial empowerment is so fundamental to an individual’s success.”
Copenhagen Central School instructor Zachary Makuch has utilized the program at his current school and previously at South Lewis Central School.
“At South Lewis, I taught a course called Entrepreneurship and Innovation and had my students complete the Banzai financial course in order to become better at financial literacy,” said Mr. Makuch in an email. “The overall objective of the course was to design a product, manufacture that product and then sell it. Financial literacy plays an important part in any business, so students need to learn those skills.”
At Copenhagen he has incorporated the Banzai course with Foundations of Social Studies.
“They are higher needs students and need the basic skills in order to become productive members of society,” said Mr. Makuch.
The simulation has students move money from a checking jar, much like a checking account, into other jars representing monthly payments. Mrs. LaDue and Ms. Bennett both said they feel financial literacy is important to emphasize at school because students may not learn about it at home. “This type of education is often taught (or not taught more frequently) at home,” Ms. Bennett said in an email. “Studies have shown the earlier children learn financial education, before they ‘need it,’ the smarter decisions they make.”
“Our job as teachers is to provide the best education for our students with realistic expectations,” said Mr. Makuch. “Students need to know how to manage their money, especially in a world where we are heavily reliant on technology. Technology can never become a replacement for ability to thrive on our own. That is why I feel it is important to participate with financial literacy especially when many members of our society cannot do simple math without the aid of a calculator.”
The Banzai program has a pre-test to determine students’ knowledge base, and a post-test to measure its growth after using the program. Emily Inman, the public relations manager at Teach Banzai, said the goal of the program “is for students to finish Banzai with a better understanding of the importance of budgeting, preparing for emergencies, and spending responsibly.”
The Pulaski and Hermon-DeKalb school districts also use Teach Banzai.
The Northern Credit Union also partners with Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide a similar program, called Mad City Money, to local school districts.