For most people, balancing their checkbook is not an exciting activity. But they realize that properly managing their finances is one of the most important life skills.
Recognizing the need, many school districts are now incorporating classes providing instruction to students on how to manage their finances.
In the Tunkhannock and Trail school districts, a computer program on the internet known as ‘Banzai,’ is now available to help students in such areas as managing a checking account, using credit and debit cards, signing up for direct deposit, and overseeing expenses.
The program is available free of charge to the districts through Penn East Federal Credit Union - which has branches in Tunkhannock and Factoryville.
“Banzai is a financial literacy program that helps teachers teach regular finances through real-life scenarios,” explained Katelyn McManamon of Penn East Federal Credit Union.
Banzai is an interactive computer-based program that also includes a workbook, McManamon explained. The students take the workbooks home and share it with their families.
In the five years that Penn East has sponsored Banzai in 64 participating schools in Wyoming and Lackawanna counties, about 5,500 students have benefited from the program.
The website allows teachers and students to create real life financial situations in the classroom.
McManamon said that she and other Penn East representatives have made presentations using Banzai in classroom for the benefit of those participating in the program.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feed-back from the teachers who use the program in schools,” McManamon explained. “They’re grateful to have access to the financial literacy. They see a need for it in their classrooms. As a credit union, we believe in investing in the community. Which is why we are doing this for the schools.”
“I saw it in an email sent by Penn East,” explained Lori Bishop, who teaches a Family and Consumer Sciences Class. “I jumped on it because I thought it was a good program.”
Many people find learning about financial management a dry subject, and Bishop confirmed that at first her ninth grade students aren’t very enthusiastic about the prospect.
“When they come to me, they want to learn how to cook,” she said.
But the Banzai program manages to hold students’ interest by presenting a number of real-life scenarios, demonstrating the various challenges people face when managing their money.
As an example, McManamon explained that a student is given a budgetary challenge. It’s a real life scenario, in which he or she is given $20.
“They want to get a burrito and go to a concert. They’re challenged to do the activities, but keep it within their budget.”
In the two years since it was introduced at Tunkhannock, Bishop has used Banzai to teach good financial management to more than 400 students. Many have found the program very useful in how to save and spend money wisely.
“It was easy to use,” said ninth grader Riley Simmons. “It’s real easy to pick up the information.”
“I think it will be beneficial to me in the future,” said Emily Rickaby. “I like the way they show you how to set up money in different groups for budgeting.”
“There’s a game that’s really good,” said Matt Rosentel. “You put away money for college. But if you don’t manage your money properly, you don’t go to college. It shows how money will have an impact on your life when you get out of high school, when you get a job and have to start saving money.”
“It helped me to learn about bad checks. What happens when you write a bad check,” explained Shane Wood. “Also, how to use a check register.”
Banzai also recently became available in the Lackawanna Trail School District. Elementary teacher Gail Franko and high school teacher Lisa Vallone will be incorporating the program into their classroom schedules. However, the program is so new at Trail students have not yet had the opportunity work with it.