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ALCO Federal Credit Union brings “Banzai” to local schools to teach real world personal finance


Wellsville’s Consumer Math teacher, Mrs. Farrand, explains how her students see the “dividends” from Banzai

By Andrew Harris

I’ve been out of high school for almost thirty years and things like finance, money, banking, savings, and budgeting are still difficult. Wellsville High School had a few classes related to business and finance, but nothing that could have prepared me for real world, day-to-day personal finance.

Today’s Wellsville High School students, along with several other school districts, are utilizing a new tool to engage and teach students how to manage their money. The web-based simulation software program called “Banzai” has been made available to local schools by ALCO Federal Credit Union’s generosity. Of course ALCO is also interested in the financial stability of future customers and business owners.

Wellsville Math Teacher Rhonda Farrand has been using Banzai in ther Consumer Math class for several years and sees results. The program hasn’t just helped educate her students, it is drawing new students to the elective class:

“I have used this program over the last few years with my Consumer Math class. Since Consumer Math was a new class at Wellsville Secondary School, it was great to have Banzai to lean on for some directive and assistance when getting the attention of our youth……. I have been told that the number of students that want the class next year has doubled, and I will be teaching it to 40 students instead of 20. I cannot wait to see where this takes us!”

This sort of scholastic breakthrough is a real point of pride for the team at ALCO Federal Credit Union. CEO/President Michael Miller explains that supporting financial literacy in local schools has been a great investment for ALCO:

“It’s a major expense for ALCO but I don’t think there is a much better way than to invest in our communities than by partnering with our great local teachers and promoting financial education. It helps the kids themselves but directly impacts their families and community as well. We started the program in the fall of 2017. We have worked with the following schools: Wellsville Senior High School, Cuba Rushford Middle High School, Genesee Valley Central School, Cuba Rushford High School, Friendship Central School, and Scio Central School.”

We asked Mrs. Harrand a few questions about how Banzai works and how it became such a successful part of Wellsville High School cirriculum:

SUN: Can you describe some directives and assistance that students receive in more detail?

Mrs. Farrand: Banzai has a workbook and an online interactive program that teaches students about the ups and downs of financial life as an adult. The workbook allows me to present the information and to teach them how it works… ie: credit cards vs debit cards, checking accounts and savings accounts

SUN: How does Banzai = a doubling of class size for an elective ? Why is this program so popular with students?

Mrs. Farrand: Consumer Math can be used as either a math credit or an elective at Wellsville. The great thing is, if using it as an elective, students have CHOSEN to learn more about their financial future! I used to teach this class for one period a day. Now, there is another teacher teaching it, and there are over 40 students in total taking this class! If students share their experiences with other students, the class will remain full from one year to another! Students get to pick their electives! It is a big deal when students will take an elective math class over an elective art class (for example)! Especially when Wellsville offers so many great electives! Banzai helps me to get the students interested and to keep them interested! Wouldn’t we all like to learn from some virtual mistakes before we actually have to go out and make them in real life? I certainly wish I had access to this program when I was their age.

SUN: How did you find the program ?

Mrs. Farrand: While I was searching for free curriculum to help me in teaching this subject, I came across Banzai in my Google search. I looked up more about it and found out that it was a large program but had a local contact, Alco Federal Credit Union, that sponsored it. What a better way to promote financial security than to get information straight from a local financial institution! I have ordered several workbooks and downloaded many games, videos, and other pdfs since first discovering this product.

SUN: What is the Banzai “secret sauce” for this level of engagement and success?

Mrs. Farrand: Keeping the students interested while teaching them information that they truly need (no matter their career choice) is imperative. There are lots of boring ways to say “don’t overspend and watch your credit score”. But Banzai has developed an interactive “game” that puts the students in the driver seat. They start the game and then they are the ones making choices. If they make good choices, they win! If they don’t, they learn from their mistakes.

For Miller and his team at ALCO, this is a community success story, a perfect marriage between public and private that produces results. The enrollment numbers and rave reviews from teachers is great but as Miller explains, the direct feedback from students is the even better and provided some of his favorites:

“not to spend money on dumb stuff”, and “it’s hard to be an adult in this world”,

“How to stratigize financially with a bank account, pocket money, and making deals with your parents. I enjoyed working at the parade and all of the losses and income. It was a very fun experience.”

“I learned that I don’t want to become an adult. I also learned to save money and not to go for the expensive stuff.”

“I learned that itś expensive if you have a flood”

“I didn’t know how the whole money thing worked, but now I know, so I think I will be okay.”

“My money seems to disappear really fast, faster than I thought.”

For more information on Banzai visit their website!!

Students and Teachers and Guidance Counselors!! Did you know about ALCO’s John Patterson Memorial Scholarship? Check out the link below and apply before March 31st.

John Patterson was a retired electrical engineer, who was also active as both a beef and tree farmer. He served as treasurer of ALco Federal Credit Union for 32 years. His dedication and contributions to the credit union were insurmountable. Because of John’s unique involvement for so many years on the Board of Directors, we are honoring him by offering this scholarship in his name.

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