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Free Program Will Teach Hudson Kids Meaning of ‘Money’

JERSEY CITY — Karen Velasquez believes that financial literacy lessons should start as early as preschool.

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As the marketing and business development director at the Jersey City-based Liberty Savings Federal Credit Union, Velasquez speaks about the meaning of “money” to preschool through college students.

But her children received her first money lesson, when they were tiny, and wasting electricity, she said. She took their piggy banks and showed them a utility bill.

“They looked at me like ‘that was it.’ They ran around shutting the lights and turning everything off,” she recalled.

The belief that financial literacy is a key aspect missing from many students’ curriculums is why Liberty Savings FCU, which started as a service for teachers, is sponsoring a financial literacy program, called “Banzai,” at 187 schools in the Hudson County area.

According to Rachel Yentes, a public relations representative for Banzai, the bank’s sponsorship is making the program – which exposes kids to bill-paying and budget balancing – completely free for teachers and students.

“All these different schools, they need to teach kids how to handle money. You never know what to expect after high school,” Yentes said. “We’re trying to get the word out to teachers so they know this is available to them for free.”

Already, the program is used in by 14,000 teachers in all 50 states, she said.

Students can learn with Banzai about “unexpected expenses such as parking tickets, interest charges and overdraft fees,” plus auto loans, bank statements and entertainment costs, Yentes said.

Among the local schools with access to the program are Kearny High School, Henry Snyder High School, William Dickinson High School, and Whitney Young Jr. School, Yentes said.

Many of the children in Hudson County’s public schools come from low-income families.

According to Velasquez, socioeconomic backgrounds make no difference when it comes to teaching financial literacy – in fact, these students often understand the value of money more.

“I think there’s a thirst among the kids of all communities for this topic because people don’t know how to approach it. For the longest time you didn’t talk about your money. It was private,” she said.”It’s a subject, that’s been lacking for a long long time… Your kids graduate, they get a job, and no one’s talked to them about their money.”

Teachers interested in using the Banzai program can visit or call 888-8-BANZAI.

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.