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Banzai program teaches students financial responsibility

Knowing how to successfully manage financial matters isn’t an inborn skill — it must be learned, and the sooner, the better.

Coosa Valley Credit Union has made it possible for students in three schools in Bartow County to learn fiscal responsibility through a free financial literacy program called Banzai, a web-based platform designed to give them an interactive way to practice dealing with adult financial dilemmas.

Students see life through an adult’s eyes by using real-life scenarios to learn the importance of budgeting, preparing for emergencies and spending responsibly. They also learn how to handle all kinds of financial issues, from navigating taxes to paying off credit cards to choosing auto and renter’s insurance, according to Banzai’s website.

“Sound monetary habits don’t begin on their own,” it said. “The first day a student uses Banzai, they have to begin thinking critically, decisively and analytically. They will get to work though, and act out, real-world spending decisions.”

The credit union sponsored the online program, which comes with a workbook that keeps students interested, at Cartersville Middle and High schools and Woodland High for the first time this school year to give teachers an interactive way to connect the classroom to the real world.

“A commitment to education is one of the defining characteristics and values of our credit union,” Assistant Vice President of Marketing Stephanie Graves said. “We believe that aggressively offering financial education to young people in our community is the best way to strategically combat the problems of financially hindered adults in the future. We are pleased to be able to offer such a robust financial education program to our local schools and hope that they will see the value in it and continue to take advantage of it.”

She added Coosa Valley’s People Helping People philosophy “makes helping out where we can in our communities a natural extension of what we do in the credit union every day.”

Graves called Banzai a “fantastic program.”

“Because it is interactive, it really seems to hold the students’ attention, and it utilizes real-life situations we all face every day,” she said. “This really brings the concepts home to students, helping them see how learning about finances is not an abstract idea but something that will affect their lives. Another plus is that it aligns with state requirements for teachers.”

Camille Spradley, marketing instructor at Cartersville High, used the program the week after Thanksgiving break to “reinforce financial literacy in a fun way” for the juniors and seniors in her consumer finance class.

“My students really liked the program, and it covered all of our credit standards,” she said, noting they  completed it in a week, working at their own pace. “The students really enjoyed working through the program and had fun learning simultaneously.”

Spradley said each student receives a magazine-style workbook that “walks them through the online program” and allows them to practice the principles they’re learning.

“It’s interactive and provides real-world problems that they have to solve regarding credit, checking/savings/investment accounts, etc.,” she said. “The
program includes pre- and post-assessments and challenges for them to complete. My teacher account allows me to see each student’s individual progress, how many challenges they’ve completed and pre-/post-assessment scores.”

The credit union wants to make more teachers aware of the program’s availability to them.

“It is always free for teachers to use due to sponsors like Coosa Valley Credit Union,” Graves said, noting there is no software to install since the program is web-based. “All a teacher needs to do is go to teachbanzai.com and sign up. If a teacher is at a school that is not sponsored, as soon as they sign up, the system alerts Banzai [that] they need a sponsor, and they go to work to find one for them.”

Teachers also have resources to contact if they have any problems with or questions about the program.

“The support received from program representatives was great,” Spradley said. “They respond quickly to questions and provided valuable information about the program in a very timely manner.”

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