The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Banzai Program: an exercise in financial fitness for Kutztown students


By Roxanne Richardson, For Journal Register News Service

Friday, April 5, 2013

For Kutztown seniorKatie Goodbrod, the Banzai Program made the task of balancing her checkbook a whole lot easier. The program is a web-based tool for students to learn about managing money using real life scenarios.
“The hardest thing was knowing what goes where and how much to put in each account,” said Goodbrod. “Pay attention and learn from it. Take it seriously because it really does help.”
The biggest benefit for her was being able to manage her money more. She intends to apply what she has learned after she graduates because she said she’s going to be a broke college student.
“That’s the plus about this program,” said Doris F. Schappell, family and consumer science teacher. “Because, after they’ve done it, they can go on to the program and put in their own information and use it on their own.”
Schappell said that while Goodbrod might not be paying rent, she might have a food allowance she wants to keep track of along with clothing, transportation and things like that. With the Banzai Program, Goodbrod can set up her own accounts and follow through to budget her own money.
The Banzai Program was donated to Kutztown High School by Discovery Federal Credit Union.
“We’re strong supporters of financial education,” said Tara McQuillen, director of marketing for Discovery Federal Credit Union. “I’ve been giving speeches and volunteer my time in classrooms so we’re already involved with the schools and I was trying to find a program that would be a good fit for the teachers to use.”
McQuillen said credit unions as a nation are huge advocates of financial education and try to catch people when they’re younger to teach them more about their personal finances so when they do get older and they are going off to college or starting to work and have to make those big financial decisions, they’re prepared for it. They can be better savers and better spenders and be more financially savvy.
Discovery Federal Credit Union wanted to give back to the community it served and donated materials to more than 1,000 students in 15 schools throughout Berks County in 2012. The program was provided to the schools at no cost. McQuillen gets letters from teachers about how well their students did and how much they enjoyed the program.
“I remember one of the teachers in the local schools uses the program for her special needs class and the parents gave huge positive feedback about how well this program works,” said McQuillen.
According to Schappell, the program is a mandatory four-week long course for ninth grade, but offered as an elective to the high school students.
“I like it because it gives scenarios. Kids today don’t realize what it’s going to cost,” said Schappell. “They think that $10 an hour is a fantastic salary.”
Schappell told a story about a girl who had spent $150 in make-up. Shocked, she asked her if she has that much money. The girl told her she has so much money that she doesn’t know what to do with it. Schappell asked her if she thought about saving it and was told she does save it; she has $600. Schappell then asked her if she realized how far that $600 was going to get her if she had to live on her own. The family and consumer science teacher said the students don’t grasp that concept. The girl Schappell talked to wasn’t in ninth grade; she was a senior. Because the course was only introduced in the last couple of years and not being a business student, the senior did not have the benefit of learning how to manage money.
Schappell said, “Some of them actually do have debit cards already in ninth grade and to me that’s a little scary when they don’t really have a lot of information on finance and they have access to accounts for debit cards and then you hear about all the college kids that are so much in debt with credit cards.”
While using the program, the students learn first by allocating money with the visual concept of envelopes or jars for rent, food, insurance, gas, etc. before applying the dollar amounts to online ledgers/charts. They find that at the end of the month if there is no money in the food envelope, they may need to get it from somewhere else and there may not be anyplace else to get it from. Online, they learn to put in how much an activity costs, which account to get money from and then to make the transfer. Everyone starts out with the same budget.
“The only thing that I can see that could make it more interesting would be if one student gets a certain amount for a paycheck and another student gets a different amount and one student pays a different amount for rent and they all have slightly different scenarios,” said Schappell.
According to Jessica Allen, representative for Banzai Professor Emeritus of Finance of The Wharton School, David F. Babble, said, “Our students must become financially literate in order to be responsible members of society. Not only does Banzai teach key financial principles, but also a system which they can use throughout their lives.”
Allen noted that Banzai just released a new feature within the software. Teachers are now able to request to take their students on field trips to the local branches. Discovery promptly replied to this feature option and is excited for teachers to make use of it.
For more information about the Banzai program, go to www.discoveryfcu.org under the Financial Guidance section.