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Oley Valley Middle School Students Learn to Plan for Their Financial Futures

It’s finally payday. With a few punches of the keys on their computers, the students inside Lori Hudson’s classroom quickly divide the spoils from their first paycheck.

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Some will go toward gas for their cars. A chunk will go toward buying concert tickets. And a piece, of course, will go into their savings.

A click of the mouse then lets them know whether they’ve divided things correctly.

It’s a scenario most adults are familiar with. But for Hudson’s eighth-graders, it’s pretty much brand new.

Hudson, who teaches a course on planning for the future at Oley Valley Middle School, is taking advantage of a special offer from Discovery Federal Credit Union of Wyomissing.

The credit union has partnered with a company called Banzai Financial Literacy to provide a free online financial literacy course that teachers can use in their classrooms.

And while the money might not be real, the impact certainly is.

“What I teach in this class are life skills,” Hudson said. “They’re the things they’re going to need to survive life. I’m getting them ready for the real world.”

Hudson said the Banzai program teaches students all sorts of things about personal finances, from paying rent to dealing with overdrafts of a checking account to federal income tax refunds.

This is the third year Hudson has used the program, which she employs along with other lessons on things like filling out job applications or picking a career. All eighth-graders are required to take her class for a third of the school year, she said.

Hudson said getting the Banzai program for free – including getting as many workbooks to go along with the Web program as she needs for no cost – is a huge benefit.

Times are financially tough for public schools, she said, and anytime someone from the community is willing to help out it’s greatly appreciated.

For officials at the credit union, the fit was perfect.

“We are advocates of financial literacy,” said Tara McQuillen, director of marketing, adding the credit union is always looking for ways to reach out to the community.

Discovery got involved with Banzai in 2010, she said, and currently helps provide the program to 33 public and private schools in Berks County, McQuillen said. The company pays the teachers’ sign-up fee, as well as for all the classroom materials.

Last year, McQuillen said, Discovery provided classroom materials for about 3,000 students. She said the hope is students will learn how to be more responsible with their finances.

“We want to educate kids when they’re young,” she said. “We want them to be smart with their savings, smart with their budgeting.”

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

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.