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Credit Union, Schools Team up to Teach Finance

Area students are getting a chance to learn budgeting skills.

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Banzai, a financial literacy program, teaches students how to create and follow budgets. The company that developed the program partners with small banks and credit unions across the country to provide the service free of charge to schools.

In Chenango, Otsego and Delaware counties Banzai is provided through Sidney Federal Credit Union. Eleven school districts within the three counties use the program, according to Banzai representatives.

Kathy Whittaker, a business teacher at the Andes Central School District, has been using the program with her students for three years. Whittaker said she uses the program with her 10th-grade career and financial management class.

The goal within the program is to save money for college. Similar to the analog “jar system,” students must squirrel away earned money into separate funding streams and dip in as needed.

“It guides students to recognize where money goes and the decisions they have to make,” Whittaker said.

She said the game-like scenario is more engaging for students than sitting through a lecture on budgets would be.

“It’s very good life experience for them without going and actually experiencing it,” she said.

Students spend about two weeks worth of the curriculum on budgeting, Whittaker said.

“What if you wanted to get dinner out but you didn’t have any cash left in that fund?” Whittaker asked. It’s those decisions that have to be made: what fund, if any, do you dip into?

Within the game, financial decisions can have consequences. A student might opt out of renter’s insurance only to have to drain their savings after a pipe bursts.

“It gets them involved and active and thinking,” Whittaker said. “And that’s what I think is important.”

RJ Tamburri, communications director for the New York Credit Association, with which SFCU is affiliated, said that helping to provide students with skills they will use throughout there life is a net positive for everyone.

“Financial literacy is a cornerstone of the credit union philosophy,” Tamburri said. “It also makes good business sense: When the public is able to make informed personal finance decisions and attain financial stability, it creates a healthier and more vibrant financial system overall.”

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7218 or

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.