In the News

Banzai Literacy Program at MHS

High school education prepares students for college and for the job market.

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The curriculum offers courses in the sciences, language arts, foreign languages, physical education, math and music, providing them with the skills necessary to pass college courses.  Programs offered through BOCES teaches them such job skills as machine technology, cosmetology, auto repair and culinary arts among others.  There are all kinds of learning tools available in our schools for young people who will soon embark on that often intimidating journey called life in the real world.

But Eileen Collins, Family and Consumer Science teacher at Mechanicville High School, knew that none of the courses offered at her school taught the students anything about managing their own personal finances, didn’t prepare them for the ups and downs of independent living.

Then she learned of a new program called Banzai which is financed and supported by CapCom Federal Credit Union which provides the software and materials for the course.  It is basically a “financial literacy” program which in a light-hearted way shows the kids just what they will be facing in the days after high school when they venture out on their own.

The MHS administration gave the thumbs-up for Ms. Collins to bring the Banzai program into her classroom this past spring.  It was well-received, with thirty-one boys and girls enrolled in the inaugural program with three 30-minute classes per week.

What did the kids think of it?

Kaylyn Garland says “It was the most beneficial thing I’ve done in high school!”

Through the Banzai program, each of the students is set up with the simulated tools for their own financial management.  They are given a job, a bank account and a credit card.  They learn to set up a budget, knowing where their money came from and where it’s going.  Taxes are deducted from each paycheck, so they learn the difference between gross pay and net pay.

The program sets up randomly-enacted life scenarios that each student must deal with in conjunction with his or her own income.  So you’ve got money in your budget for food, rent, entertainment, car expenses, insurance policies and reserves for unexpected expenses.  You allot your money into “jars” which gives you the wherewithal to eat, pay rent, shop and have fun. Right.

Ashley Zacher says, “My house flooded, and I hadn’t bought homeowners’ insurance.”

So she was faced with finding money for home repairs.

Kristin Bazar’s car broke down.  “I was given three options,” she says.  “I could repair it, buy a new one or go without a car!”

In one particular class, the students had to prepare a grocery shopping list within their allotted food budget.  The girls recounted how they had to decide whether to eat cheap and buy the good stuff they really like, or buy the healthy foods which are more costly.

Kristin pointed out that if you buy the junk food you like, then the program hits you with a medical issue because you didn’t eat right, and then you have a doctor bill!

Says Danielle Breen, “The program shows you how to choose where to spend.  You have a paycheck with only so much money, and you must decide what you are doing with that paycheck.”

Kristin notes that with the spending money divided up in “jars”, you can move the money from one jar to the other, taking, for instance, your entertainment funds to spend on food or other necessities or unexpected expenses.

The Banzai program is set up in a fun way, almost like a game, so that students enjoy it.  But while they are having fun, they are learning valuable lessons.  If they want to go to college, the program shows them the various ways they can finance their education.  It shows them what they are faced with if they take out loans or charge to a credit card. When that loan payment or credit card payment is interjected into their budgeting process, they have to find a way to pay it off. And they do get a bank statement which they must reconcile.

Kristin, Danielle, Kaylyn and Ashley, all seniors, were among the 31 students who took the course in the spring 2015 semester, but this year Ms. Collins will be offering it to eighth graders in the second semester.  Ashley says she believes that if you learn financial management at a younger age, it will come easier.  Ms. Collins agrees and would like to see financial literacy introduced even to her 6th graders in a program geared for younger students.

Ms. Collins says that she has been very pleased with the Banzai program and is most appreciative of CapCom providing it to our school.  Online support is excellent, and the students got a lot out of the experience.

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.