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Credit Union Helps Students Learn About Money

Liberty High School sophomore Grace Shanks already has figured out one way to handle her money from a part-time job.

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Half of it goes into savings, and the other half she can use for whatever she wants.

Learning more about finances — thanks to a program offered through Members First Community Credit Union — helps Shanks and some of her classmates think more about saving and less about spending.

“It’s helped me to set goals on what you should save,” said freshman Dustin Dennis, who has a savings and a checking account along with plans to repair a truck. “People are starting to drive. They need to know how to set aside money for gas.”

Students in Jessica Saunders’ math class got some more help Tuesday thanks to a presentation from Taylor Gaines with Members First.

The in-person lessons reinforce what the students already learned through Banzai, a world-class software platform designed to introduce students to adult financial dilemmas through real-life simulations.

“I realize what parents go through with money,” Grace said.

Members First has offered the program since 2010, reaching more than 1,500 area students in Adams, Brown, Pike and Schuyler counties. More than 35,000 teachers in all 50 states use the free curriculum targeted to elementary, junior high and high school students.

“It’s simple things we’re hoping to teach kids so they’re more prepared for the real world,” said Gaines, a business development representative with the credit union. “It offers students the opportunity to learn the trade-offs, the good and the bad, the discipline of making financial decisions with things that might come up, choices they might make.”

It’s especially apt in April, National Financial Literacy Month.

“It has really helped them to think more about their futures,” Saunders said.

Gaines wants to see more schools take advantage of the Banzai curriculum and the credit union’s additional assistance.

Char Cearlock, an associate faculty member at John Wood Community College, has used Banzai in several different teaching settings – and even with her own daughter.

“It’s just changing students’ perspective, so they don’t become adults that make poor financial decisions,” Cearlock said. “They understand money instead of becoming young adults who don’t understand money – and how they can make it work for them.”

The lessons are fun, kid-friendly and adaptable for a wide range of ages and classrooms.

“Years ago I made it fit in a computer class, in a college prep careers exploration class, in life skills or an accounting class,” Cearlock said. “It can supplement your curriculum, or it can be on its own. It is aligned to state standards. That’s attractive for teachers and administration as well.”

More information about Banzai is available online at

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.