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School Spotlight: Teaching Real-Life Money Skills

WAUNAKEE — Paying off a credit card when there’s not enough money in the bank. Paying rent or going out to eat. Facing overdraft charges on a checking account. Tracking the stock market.

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Those are some of the real-life scenarios high school students encounter under a computer-based financial literacy program offered free through a partnership with Dane County Credit Union.

“Any time we can have kids in front of their computers doing something academic, they like it,” said Michelle McGlynn, business and information technology teacher at Waunakee High School.

McGlynn is among the teachers of more than 50 classrooms in Dane County who are using the Banzai computer program.

At Waunakee High School, McGlynn and Stacey Ryan, another business and information technology teacher, use the program in their class called Dollars and Sense.

“It’s all financial education, which is kind of a huge deal in our country right now,” Ryan said. “The Banzai program fits very well with the budgeting unit.”

The program is interactive and includes graphics such as a note on a bulletin board that rent is due, she said.

Ryan estimates 85 percent of Waunakee students take Dollars and Sense, which is designed for freshmen and sophomores.

Erin Moran, 15, a freshman at Waunakee High School who used the program in this semester’s Dollars and Sense class, said learning about the penalties and consequences of spending more than you have was eye-opening.

“It was fun. It was something different,” Erin said about the program. “It was better than doing worksheets.”

The Banzai program, which received a Curriculum of the Year Award from the Institute of Financial Literacy, was created by a Provo, Utah, company. It was designed for middle and high school students in courses such as business, financial literacy or family and consumer sciences. The software is supplemented by a booklet.

Bonnie Rosenmeier, vice president of marketing for Dane County Credit Union, said her company has sponsored the program since 2010. In that time, about 3,000 Dane County students have studied the program.

“We just thought kids would tune into it. It is not a boring textbook,” Rosenmeier said.

Joe Molke, a Dane County Credit Union branch manager, likes the idea that students can refer back to the program later when it becomes more relevant.

“They can just hop on the computer anywhere,” he said.

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

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.