August 18, 2017

Gorham Savings Bank promotes financial fitness in area high schools by Michelle Libby

For the second year, students at five area high schools including Windham High School, will supplement their financial learning with a program provided by Gorham Savings Bank and EVERFI Financial.
The program created by EVERFI covers the basics of money and is all digital and all online. Nine modules cover the topics most important to today’s teens. Students are given access to the program in class and to work on their own time. It was left up to each school how to administer the program. More than 200 students at Massabesic High School used the teaching tool.

Windham social studies teacher Kelly-Anne Rush uses the program with her students to reinforce a concept after covering it or to find out what the students already know before starting a unit. She has taught senior personal finance and citizenship for eight semesters.

“We are trying to accomplish a lot in a semester,” Rush said. 

Rush had used other online programs before, but they were older programs. “This seems more up to date. It has some cool interactives,” she said. “It has all the skills I want them to know. I use it sparingly though. Computers can never replace what a teacher can do,” she said. 

Approximately 344 students used the program last year for a total of 761 hours of learning. 

“We are giving the high school students the tools to manage their money more effectively,” said Dan Hancock, who manages the program for Gorham Savings Bank. “It’s kind of cool. They need one person who had a passion for it in a classroom. It takes a lot of time to put it together and administer it.”

The students learn about budgeting, saving and planning for college, how to rent or buy a home and what a credit report is. Everything is done in a fun interactive way on the computer through video, commentaries and questions in modules that average 40 to 45 minutes.

The schools in the program are Windham, Gorham, Massabesic, Bonny Eagle and Kennebunk. “These were schools that identified this as a need,” said Hancock. 

“What I love about this program is, at the beginning it tests student knowledge, and then sees what they’ve learned. The most learning happened with paying for college and that’s so important for that age,” said Hancock. The students who are getting ready to go to college understand what it means to make payments and how to minimize what they borrow after working that module. 

“They can apply it to their real lives. They are talking about things that really resonate with them. We’d like to expand upon their knowledge,” said Hancock.

The data for the program is accessible to the teachers. “I can see what they’ve done. The data helps me figure out if students need more on a topic, or review a trend they’re not getting,” said Rush.
When speaking to the students, they felt that the program peaked their interest in investing. “I wouldn’t have thought we’d see that in high school students,” said Hancock. 

Rush said that the most important concept the program teaches is building a good credit score and credit in general. “I really think it’s important for them to understand while they’re young (that credit) gets people into trouble,” Rush said. “Funding your future is a very pressing issue for my students,” she said. 

“Sometimes you made the right decision and sometimes you learn the hard way,” said Hancock. This program gives students better access to information that can put them on the right path to financial fitness. 

Students that Rush has taught have come back to class to tell her that they’ve put money in a CD or that they just leased their first apartment. “It just warms my heart. That makes it worth it.” 

Gorham Savings Bank is looking to grow the project at the five schools so that more students have access to this vital information. There is no “hard sell” in the program and there is no cost to the school to make it as accessible as possible, said Hancock. This is a way to be visible in the community. The bank wants its customers to learn what they can about money.  “If the students want to become customers of the bank, that’s okay, but it’s not required,” Hancock said. Gorham Savings Bank’s mission is, “to improve the financial and social well-being of our communities.”

“The more information the students have access to the more prepared they’ll be to manage their money,” he added.

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