Finance program gives NHS students a look at real life

Finance program gives NHS students a look at real life

by Guy Thompson

A new course introduced last semester at Northridge High School has given students a glimpse into the future. A future where they are earning money and having to pay their own bills.

The program, Banzai, is sponsored by First State Bank in Middlebury and is a software-based program that helps educate students on how to manage their money. NHS teacher Mary Shroyer introduced the program during her College and Careers class, which began this year at the school. Shroyer, who has been teaching at NHS for 35 years, had received information about the program and felt it would fit in well with the class.

“It has some real-life scenarios in it,” said Darla Kauffman from First State Bank. “They (students) have a job with a set income and responsibilities. They pay rent, insurance, food and other expenses. Between the online work and the booklet, they can plug in the scenarios.”

“A couple of disasters are also part of what can happen to them,” Shroyer added. This can be damage to their home. A flat tire. “It’s something they have to keep taking out of their jar.”

The “jar” is a series of visible jars in the program that show students how much money they have and where it needs to go. “You have to put money in certain places where the priorities are,” noted sophomore Bre Woodill. “When we first opened it up, we wondered what we were doing. Then we got into it and it made it feel more realistic. It helped to see those jars.”

The program runs through several scenarios and the students have to manage their money throughout the process. “At the end of the program, they don’t want to end up broke,” Kauffman noted.

“They ask me if they can ever win at this game,” Shroyer said.

“That’s called life,” Kauffman added.

Through the program and making sure they keep up with their expenses and those emergencies, the students realize that they can’t control what happens, Shroyer noted.

Freshman Zack Swaka found through the program that it is easy to get into trouble financially, especially when life throws curves at you. “I had to get used to where the money went and all of the expenses that show up,” he said.

The program itself is fairly simple and straight-forward, but is giving students a real eye-opener that Shroyer and Kauffman hope will hit home before the students are out on their own and spending money they don’t have. “I don’t think we can do enough to promote financial literacy,” Kauffman said. “I feel we have lost a couple of generations with that literacy. There are a lot of jobs in the area, but what do they pay?”

“They (students) aren’t worried about getting things paid,” Shroyer commented. Her son is working and tells her stories of friends and coworkers who get their check and blow it on stuff. “He can’t understand why they do that. That’s what this generation does.”

For some families, discussing finances is taboo and that leaves the next generation to go out and figure things out on their own. But they often make mistakes. Sometimes serious mistakes. “They get a vehicle they can’t afford. They get stuff they can’t afford,” Shroyer said.

Banzai gives students some insight into what their family faces regarding finances. Freshman Andrew Langacher found the look at the reality of finances “sort of scary to see what’s happening. But I appreciate what my parents are paying for and what else they have to pay for. It’s not just you.”

Lengacher does have his own job and uses the money for personal expenses. The course has changed how he uses his money and he is working to save more.

Kauffman also came into the classroom to talk to students about banking issues and how different accounts work. She also discussed credit cards and the problems they can cause. “We have them look ahead at their income stream and ask ‘How will I pay for a credit card?’ They have to use credit wisely and especially hold off on using them until they get some income,” Kauffman said.

“It (credit cards) is one of the major traps. The course taught us how much it can add up,” Woodill added. “Everybody needs to know this and know how to save money.”

“If we can plant that seed now, or even younger, and get them thinking about those things, they are set for a better future,” Kauffman said. “We talk about student loans, for example. They don’t understand the severity of it. We want that financial responsibility and stability for them. It’s better for them and better for the community.”