In the News

Make Good Choices: Local Students Learn Fiscal Responsibility

Handling personal finances in life is somewhat like parenting; we are not born knowing how.

Originally posted on

It takes time and patience. Everyone wants more money, but handling the funds we do have at a given time requires careful consideration, impulse restraint and concrete training.

April is Financial Literacy Month, and there is no time like the present.

As the largest independent community bank in Saratoga County, the Adirondack Trust Company has underwritten the Banzai Online Financial Literacy Program that is free to schools and non-profits at about a dozen local schools to date that teach the value of a dollar starting in elementary school.

Banzai was awarded Curriculum of the Year by the Institute for Financial Literacy. It is used by more than 50,000 educators in all 50 states. These same skills can be applied in families, across the generations.

“The Adirondack Trust Company became involved with providing a formal, financial literacy program to our area schools back in 2013,” said Charles V. Wait, Jr., Executive Vice President, Adirondack Trust Company. “We saw this as an important step forward in helping to educate the youth of our area about financial topics such as savings, budgeting, checking, and retirement planning to name a few.

“We partnered with Banzai since their program is designed specifically to appeal to the various grade levels in middle and high schools. We are proud to be the exclusive sponsor of this program in Saratoga and Warren Counties, and are thrilled that in the past five years over 3,600 students have participated.”

Educator Nicole Passante teaches at both the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Middle School and Senior High School.

She was attending a Professional Development session for business teachers when she learned about use of the innovative Banzai multimedia resource that presents concepts of fiscal responsibility using age appropriate video lessons.

Instructors can sign up online and Banzai will direct the inquiry by zip code recognition to the local financial institution that provides the support to schools free of charge.

“We live in a drastically different world,” Passante said. “I know my generation was caught up in a student loan crunch. We all have aspirations. The families have a shared interest to set their children up for success. I tell them it’s financial fitness for life.”

Students in grades 9-12 can elect to take the half year, two-part course that Passante teaches called Career & Financial Management I or II (CFM). It is in those courses that Passante and her students incorporate the array of real-world subjects that Banzai covers.

Topics such as credit scores and reports, identity theft, credit cards, mortgages, down payments, interest and fees, budgeting, checking accounts, tipping and a host of others that student not even finished with high school are having to navigate in today’s world.

From the moment you step through the door of Passante’s classroom, the message is clear, and is posted for all to see: MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

Having recently completed Career & Financial Management I, some of Passante’s students who opted to continue in the second session of the course gathered to review what they had learned and how they have applied the concept to their own lives.

They spoke in terms that demonstrated that the material presented had been absorbed.

Expressions such as “financial maturity” and self-examination by asking “Is this a need or a want?” were common parlance. There were several anecdotes about just saying no to that whipped cream-topped latte for $4.95.

The following were student responses to the questions: Why did you take the financial management class? How did you benefit personally from the class? After taking the class, how did you apply or hope to apply what you learned to your personal life?

Sophomore Emily Rabbitt: “I originally took the class because I heard from previous students that the class was very beneficial for your future.

“It helped me figure out what really happens outside of high school and how difficult it can be if you don’t manage your time and money. It helped me narrow down what I want to choose as my career after college, and to take the time to sit down and find a job I would be interested in for the rest of my life. This class will forever benefit my future in great ways.

“This class helped me with managing and keeping track of my money. I realized how many options I have. This class also helped me go out in the world and search for a job in a professional way. Because of this, I now have a job and this will forever benefit my future.”

Senior Aidan Gillooley: ”I was interested in business and I wanted to pursue it in college so my guidance counselor recommended career and financial management.

“I personally benefit by having a great teacher, Mrs. Passante, who makes the class fun but attainable at the same time. I’ve learned so much about finances and careers that it will definitely make an impact.

“After CFM, I have been better about spending money and budgeting so I can make the right future investments. I plan on taking what I learned from CFM to Siena College, where I will be majoring in business.“

Junior Gracie Russo: “I’m now in CFM II and have learned how to balance a checkbook, not to waste money, and to save in a savings account. I want to be 100 percent prepared. I save ten percent out of my paycheck, and am working on establishing credit.”

Senior Samantha MacLeod: “I have a job at AJ Signs and one of my tasks is dealing with accounts receivable. I’ve learned fiscal responsibility, and building credit, because I hope to continue at SUNY Delhi and go into business for myself as a vet.”

Junior Skylar Wright: “I thought CFM and the Banzai courses were very interesting. I learned about saving,establishing credit, and self control. I came into the class already having a checking and savings accout. I work at Fo Castle Farms as a cashier and save half of my paycheck.

“If you have a job, save and stay out of debt. I want to go into the medical field, as a physical therapist or a physician’s assistant. I told my siblings they should take this class.”

Sophomore Braedon Otis: “I have family members who are in business. My grandfather is Angelo Mazzone, who is in the restaurant and hospitality business. I learned to be fiscally literate and fiscally mature by saving my money,and asking myself ‘Is this a need or a want?’ when I was about to spend money.

“I have a summer job working at Saratoga National (Golf Club) bussing tables. I say to myself ”Maybe you don’t need the brand name. We don’t learn to just live empty lives. This is one of my favorite classes.”

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.