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Students Learn Saving Strategies Through Financial Literacy Program

MIDDLEBURY — Local students are getting a lesson in money management with the help of a program sponsored by First State Bank of Middlebury.

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The bank has partnered with Banzai, a financial literacy program, to make curriculum available to area schools. Banzai simulates real-life scenarios to teach students how to manage their money. Students learn how to pay regular expenses like rent and insurance, as well as deal with unexpected costs like car repairs.

“We have really had great experiences with the Banzai program,” said Darla Kauffman, who works as a banking officer at First State Bank. “It’s so important to get this topic into classrooms to help the next generations understand how banking and credit affects their lives.”

First State Bank partnered with Banzai in early 2015, and has visited 30 classrooms so far including school corporations in South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Goshen, Fairfield and Middlebury, and local private schools.

The bank’s hands-on approach to educating local teens includes offering the Banzai workbooks to accompany the online program, as well as speaking to classes directly about the difference between credit and debit cards, credit scores, loans, and how to use Online Mobile Banking, Kauffman explained.

Kauffman said that the bank is committed to providing “whatever level of financial literacy the teacher requested for their classes. In most all cases we are invited to speak in the classroom. New classroom requests come in each week.”

Teaching ‘good habits’

Fairfield Jr-Sr High School business teacher Terri Masters is using the Banzai program with her internship students, to help them “put into practice some of the financial ideas we learn about in class.” Students in sixth through eighth grade at Millersburg Elementary-Middle School are also utilizing the program.

At Goshen High School, business teacher Kyle Park used Banzai in his business math class where his students “loved the simulation because it brought to life what we had been studying all year.”

Mary Shroyer, a 35-year veteran business teacher at Northridge High School, tried Banzai in her new college and careers class this year. She was impressed.

“Their goal is to raise $2000 to go to college, but in the process, all these other things keep happening to them,” Shroyer said.

Students face sudden costs like engine repairs and fixing flooded basements. The program helps students understand both how they get paid and how to manage that money once they have it.

“There needs to be a practical class like that,” Shroyer said. “Kids come talk to us about how they don’t know how to rent an apartment or take out loans. More of my students used to work and save.

[Now] they are totally OK with getting a student loan and having that debt when they graduate. I don’t think they understand the concept of how that happens and what a crutch it is.”

Shroyer’s students shared that Banzai, while educational, was also fun.

“I really enjoyed how it was set up like a game, with a specific goal at the end. It really gave you an idea of how expensive it is to live. We’ve learned about the basics in class, but the fact that Banzai includes all the emergencies that come up in everyday life really made it feel more realistic,” student Breann Woodill said.

Another Northridge student, Addison Consiglio, admitted that the simulation “was difficult at times,” but he appreciated the real-world scenarios “because it prepares us for when we are out on our own.”

“It teaches you good habits,” Woodill added. “Everyone should know how to save money.”

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.