Mid-Missouri banks are sponsoring area schools’ access to a software program that helps introduce students to the financial realities they’ll face as adults.
Banzai is free online financial literacy program — based in Provo, Utah — with different course levels for students 8-18 years old.
The program is free for students because of the sponsorships of local banks and credit unions:
• Mid-America Bank sponsors Blair Oaks High School, Callaway Hills Elementary School, Fatima’s elementary and high schools, Helias Catholic High School, Linn High School, Maries County Middle School, North Elementary School, Osage County Elementary School, St. George Catholic School in Linn, St. Joseph Catholic School, St. Stanislaus Catholic School in Wardsville, St. Thomas the Apostle School in St. Thomas, and Trinity Lutheran School.
• The Maries County Bank sponsors schools including Iberia’s elementary and high schools, Owensville High School, and Vienna’s elementary and high schools.
• United Credit Union sponsors several schools in Audrain, Boone, Callaway and Randolph counties, including North Callaway High School.
Nyla Bassett, a loan officer at the Vienna branch of Maries County Bank, said a benefit of sponsoring Banzai is the bank’s logo gets to be on images students see of checks and bank statements.
“One of our schools was using it, and they brought it to my attention,” Bassett said of how the bank came to be a Banzai sponsor about a year ago. She called it a win-win — a chance to support local schools and communities.
“It’s a great little curriculum online that was very self-explanatory, very useful,” said Linda Cumpton, who teaches family and consumer science courses at Blair Oaks High School.
Cumpton has been teaching a careers class for 12 years but started using Banzai last year. She said the program runs students through financial skills such as budgeting money, balancing a checkbook, buying needs and wants, and insurance.
She teaches a group of 25-30 students in grades nine through 12, and everyone’s needs were met.
Students enter her class with some financial knowledge, she said, but “it’s kind of like learning to read in elementary school” — smaller words lead progressively to learning bigger words.
“It doesn’t really become reality until they get the job and they get their tax returns,” she said about how students often approach personal finances, adding Banzai gives students a real-world feel of what to expect and how to prepare.
For example, she used the software to talk about using a credit card, but also about how using a credit card can get out of control if the card balance is not paid off month to month — and applications for cards often will start coming in the mail once students are old enough to have one in their name.
Bassett said young adults nowadays often do not own checkbooks or know how to balance one — “they just go straight off debit cards.”
She said, though, knowing how to use checks and balance a checkbook is still an important skill — especially when places like their own child’s school may not take any electronic payments.
“We have enjoyed working with Banzai, and I think the kids enjoy using Banzai,” she said, describing the software as more of a hands-on experience and less of a study guide.
“The program features real-life simulations to illustrate financial concepts in a fun and meaningful way,” according to a news release from Banzai, which noted the software is used by more than 40,000 teachers in all 50 U.S. states.