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Local bank, Banzai bring financial literacy to area students

First International Bank and Trust sponsors Banzai “to make partial of full remote learning in the wake of COVID-19 easier"

Originally post on The Pierce County Tribune

Submitted Photo Rugby First International Bank and Trust President Tanner Johnson, center, reviews a financial lesson with his daughter, Livvy, left, and his son, Jenner. First International Bank and Trust has partnered with Banzai, a company offering lessons in financial literacy, to area schools.

As communities see a need for youth to learn money management, First International Bank and Trust in Rugby and other locations is teaming up with Banzai, a program to teach financial literacy in local schools.

Rugby First International Bank President Tanner Johnson is the father of three Rugby elementary and high school students. His wife, Carlie, sits on the Rugby Public School Board.

“It’s pretty important in our household for them to learn financial responsibility at an early age,” Johnson said of his children. “I was brought up to have a checking account when I was in the sixth grade. So, we try to let people know there’s a time (for children to learn the skill).”

“What I don’t like to see is kids going off to college and getting a checking account then,” Johnson said. “It’s probably a little too late then. We like to see kids getting them in junior high. Junior high is an ideal time to start teaching about personal finances and how to handle a checking account, maybe having them make a few mistakes along the way when they’re young so that when they go off to college and get all these credit card applications and think life is hunky dory, and suddenly they get in trouble.”

First International Bank and Trust sponsors Banzai “to make partial of full remote learning in the wake of COVID-19 easier,” a statement from Banzai said, adding, “Banzai is an award-winning online financial literacy program and content library of articles, calculators and personalizable coaches. All of these resources are available to students at home or in the classroom via any device that can access the Internet.”

“Banzai is a web-based financial literacy program. Kids get their own accounts, and they work through assignments that are based on real life,” Morgan Vandagriff, co-founder of Banzai said in the statement. “But because First International Bank & Trust is sponsoring it, local schools get it for free. More than ever, it’s important that kids develop sound financial skills to prepare them for the real world, and First International Bank & Trust realizes that and they’re doing something about it.”

Johnson said Banzai had been used in Rugby schools in the past before the pandemic halted in-classroom learning in 2020.

“I introduced it to the schools and told them about it a little,” Johnson said.

Johnson encouraged schools to reach out to the Rugby branch to bring Banzai into their classrooms. “They can reach out to the Banzai website and order what they want. Banzai contacts us and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a school in Rugby, or Towner – I think Wolford got it one year when they were in session – and they ask if we want to sponsor this, and we sponsor it.”

“That’s kind of how it was in the beginning – we were a little more hands-on, but since the virtual side has kicked in, we’re a little more hands-off, but we know where it’s going. We always offer it to the schools; we’re like, ‘hey, if you need us to come in and talk, we’re more than happy to come in and talk,'” Johnson added.

Johnson recalled visiting a fifth- grade class at Ely Elementary School a few years before the pandemic to talk about financial literacy with pupils.

“They enjoyed it,” Johnson said of the students. “There were lots of questions. I brought in some silver so they could feel it and touch it. We talked about two different things. I was teaching how to invest and how that side all worked. The teacher had accounting within her classroom where they had a banker and other different roles, and they all had to play a role and be responsible for something. And it had to do with financial responsibility.”

First International Bank and Trust has brought Banzai and tools to build financial literacy to their communities since 2015, “by investing time, money, industry experience and a variety of bank resources, “according to the statement released by Banzai.

“Banzai content builds a foundation of practical knowledge and gives students the tools to create a sound financial future,” the statement added. “While students learn, teachers can easily monitor and grade their progress remotely. After finishing Banzai, students will know how to track where their money is and what it’s for, recognize financial trade-offs, build a budget, and more. At a time when many are facing unprecedented financial challenges, these lessons are invaluable.”

“Banzai resources are used by over 75,000 teachers across the U.S. The courses align with North Dakota, Arizona and Minnesota’s state curriculum requirements, making the program a fun way for students to gain vital financial literacy skills,” the statement said. “Teachers interested in using the Banzai program with their class can visit or call 888-8-BANZAI. For more information about Banzai visit”

“I think it’s a great thing to teach your kids about how to save; teach your kids about what they can save for and what they can spend,” Johnson said. “There’s also a piece we like to teach them about donations. They should have a pot to donate to, whether it’s church or an organization, whatever it may be.”

“It’s really important because good, bad or indifferent, we all look at money at some point in our lives,” Johnson added.

More information about First International Bank & Trust is available at

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.