A new program supported by local credit unions is helping students in area school districts learn financial literacy and independence.
The state Department of Education requires the teaching of financial literacy. Banzai is a Web-based program that offers students real-life experience for maintaining money. The weeklong program is part of many financial literacy classes in area schools.
Support for the course is available from local credit unions, including Penn East, which was established by teachers from the Scranton School District in 1938, said Katelyn McManamon, marketing and business development manager for the credit union. Since the 2012-13 school year, the credit union has offered Banzai free to teachers in area schools, including Scranton and West Scranton high schools, Abington Heights, the Scranton School for Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Children, All Saints School, Riverside and Dunmore.
“If it wasn’t for my personal finance class, some of these students may never be exposed to or learn the skills needed to be financially sound in life,” said Renee Barucky, a Riverside business education teacher who uses the program.
Ms. Barucky teaches ninth-grade students about being financially responsible, while Stacie Telnock, a computer applications teacher, instructs eighth-grade students about their finances at Dunmore.
The program features tools to help students solve real financial problems.
Banzai, which includes a booklet, takes students through scenarios such as “rent and car payments,” said Ms. Telnock.
Students get a “full-time job” and make monthly payments, said Ms. Barucky, including rent, car loan, gas, groceries and unexpected costs, including hospital bills.
“It’s very realistic for the students; they like it,” she said.
Banzai is just one facet of personal finance taught in schools. During financial literacy courses, students learn that whether they are from a high or low socioeconomic bracket, they’re not automatically in that bracket as an adult, Ms. Telnock said.
“Very few students haven’t seen their parents struggling or arguing over money,” she said. “It’s important for them to see the decisions that lead to financial success or failure. … They’re personally accountable for their own finances.”
Teachers interested in using the Banzai program can visit teachbanzai.com or call 888-8-BANZAI.