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Marist seniors learn the importance of financial literacy

Source:  Hudson Reporter
Published:  July 6, 2016
A matter of finance 
Local students get apt lessons for the future
by Al Sullivan and Rory Pasquariello
Reporter staff writers
Financial literacy is so important, that now you can’t graduate from high school without passing a course in in it.

This is because many students leave high school ill-equipped to deal with the complicated maze of personal finance: how to budget, wisely use credit cards, and the importance of savings and checking accounts.

The state Department of Education implemented new financial literacy high-school graduation requirement for the 2010-2011 ninth-grade class.

All students must take at least 2.5 credits in financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy.
By graduation, students will demonstrate an understanding of how the economy works, their role in the economy and the necessary skills to effectively manage personal finances.

To this end, the Provident Bank and EverFi lent a hand to local high schools in Jersey City and Bayonne. Recently they held certification ceremonies at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, Marist High School in Bayonne, and Bayonne High School.

Students were giving certificates for completing the Provident BFF (Becoming Financially Fit) program.

Since the program was expanded in September, it has taught 2,658 New Jersey and Pennsylvania students about building and maintaining good credit, investing, and higher-education financing through self-paced, online modules.

“More than 110 Henry Snyder High School students learned about credit, investing, and their options for financing higher education through the online modules,” said Yvonne Waller, principal at Henry Snyder High School. “We would like to thank Provident Bank and our co-educators for successfully facilitating the program’s success over the past few months.”

Provident Bank’s Konstantin Yusipov, market manager, and Diana Braga, public relations manager, and Bria Barker, EverFi’s K12 program director, facilitated a student panel before Tracey Sinatra, a teacher at Henry Snyder, presented students with certificates.

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"This program is beneficial for every stage of everyone's life." - Gail P. Godesky

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A successful program

Last academic year, students’ financial knowledge rose by an average of 65 percent based on module pre- and post-assessment scores from the Provident BFF program. Post modules surveys show a 78 percent increase in the number of students who now feel prepared to check their credit score and know what it means.

“Because of this program, I have assurance and confidence in myself that in the near future I will watch my spending a lot more and keep track of all my purchases, as well as make wiser financial decisions,” said Mercy Sabaya, student, Henry Snyder High School.

“We look to support schools in our local footprint to give back,” said Joseph Spatola, senior vice president and Community Reinvestment Act officer for Provident Bank. 

The program tries to focus on areas of low- and moderate income, with both partners attempting to support the community. They visit schools, talk to the district’s superintendent, and other people to determine the level of interest in providing a program.

If the school is interested, a team will meet with the teachers on how to administer it. 

This is an open forum in which information is shared about financial literacy that students can use. It also provides areas for discussion that teachers can develop later.

“A lot of us assume that we know about savings and checking accounts, when some don’t,” Spatola said. “This course takes the mystery out of it.”

Banking has changed over the last two decades, especially with the use of online activities. Most of today’s students, Spatola said, are extremely computer savvy, so that his aspect comes as second nature.

Some of the content is delivered in modules similar to computer games or Xbox.

“Students can relate to it and not be bored by it,” Spatola said, noting that the program started in Bayonne four years ago, and has since expanded to 11 counties in New Jersey as well as several in Pennsylvania.

Bayonne students did very well

Tim Craig, director of Fine Arts and Business for Bayonne High School said the program was comprehensive.

“Provident bank offers our students a modular program online with curriculum for personal financial literacy that our students complete,” he said. “It’s a full, ten-month course, and they do x amount of modules per month. Upon completion, Provident Bank, along with EverFi, which creates the program, comes to the high school and does a ceremony for the students.” 

The program covers goes from the basic to the complex.

“The curriculum is designed to take our students from anything from writing a check to knowing how interest rates work, to applying for loans, to applying for the FAFSA,” Craig said. “It gives them a very firm understanding of financial literacy before they go off to college. I wish I had that kind of training when I went off to college.”

The program was easily incorporated into the Chromebooks that students are already using.

“This is a great system, it’s virtual, and it’s top of the line,” Craig said. “Our teachers facilitate the material with the students. For the most part, the students work on the modules themselves. It’s a really fantastic program. EverFi gives us the licenses, and Provident Bank pays for them.”

Craig said the bank is incredibly generous to offer the licenses and throw this celebration for the kids. It did a round of financial jeopardy with them, and the kids knew all the answers.

”I was very impressed. So they learned the material, which was great,” Craig said. “Today we had 797 who completed the course. And we have a few kids who are finishing up. Feedback from students has been very positive.”

“Financial education and literacy for people at all stages in life is an integral part of our commitment to the communities in which we serve,” said Spatola. “Provident BFF is about giving all individuals access to the tools that will make them feel more comfortable talking about finances, and help them gain the education and insights into financial matters that impact their daily lives and futures. The Bayonne High School event highlights the benefits provided and focuses on preparing the students for what lies ahead."

Gail P. Godesky, vice president and market manager for Provident Bank, has high hopes for the program.

“This program is beneficial for every stage of everyone's life,” she said. “The students will learn through this partnership with Provident Bank and EverFi. They may not know the importance of these modules today, but will absolutely appreciate them in the coming months and years of their future.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com. Rory Pasquariello may be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.
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