Founders Bank & Trust teaches financial literacy to tech-savvy generation


A local bank is bringing an interactive program back to school this fall at several GRPS schools to increase students’ understanding of personal finance skills through adaptive simulations and educational videos.

Founders Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of Founders Financial Corp. and headquartered at 5200 Cascade Road SE, is spearheading an initiative to provide high school students access to an EverFi Financial Literacy Program known as Founders Bank & Trust Financial Scholars Program.

Based in Washington, D.C., EverFi is an education technology company that uses technology to teach, assess and certify students in critical skills. Incorporating animation, three-dimensional gaming, avatars, video and social networking, EverFi’s Financial Literacy Program is an interactive tool designed to bring complex financial concepts to the digital generation.

The online platform uses an engaging method to increase high school students’ understanding of personal finance topics such as insurance, student loans, mortgages, taxes, 401(k)s and stocks.

The Founders Financial Scholars Programis a six- to eight-hour course personalized for the students. Each student is given a login and, at the discretion of the teacher, either works in a particular order or at their own pace to complete nine content modules, each one lasting approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Sean Fitzgerald, executive vice president of the Midwest region for EverFi, said as a co-curricular resource, the program works alongside other activities already taking place in the classroom.

“The goal of the Founders Bank & Trust Financial Scholars Program is for students to go through all nine modules, pass those modules, and earn their certificate of completion for the course,” said Fitzgerald. “It is a web-based delivery (and) really engaging way to teach millennials personal finance skills.”

Participating GRPS high schools include Ottawa Hills, Union, University Prep Academy and Innovation Central.

Cheryl Famulak, vice president of loan compliance at Founders Bank & Trust, said the bank felt it was important to offer the financial management program at no cost to the GRPS system after learning about EverFi’s program.

“Founders Bank & Trust has always been committed to our community, and when we became aware of the EverFi program, we felt very strongly that it was definitely important for the future of our Grand Rapids Public Schools students that we make this high-level financial literacy program available to them,” said Famulak.

Ron Gorman, executive director of high schools and alternative education at GRPS, said the program will benefit both the students and Grand Rapids as a whole, as it enables students to make sound financial decisions in the future.

“The program provides a high-quality business simulation, video game element that maintains students’ interests, while engaging them in learning valuable life skills including financial literacy and financial responsibility,” said Gorman in a written statement. “These opportunities provide students the ability to take control of their futures.”

Recognizing the impact EverFi’s program was having on the east side of the state, Famulak said Founders decided to partner with EverFi to put together the interactive educational program for area high schools. Each financial literacy program developed by EverFi adheres to national standards maintained by the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

“We will be working with EverFi to roll this out within the curriculums at the schools. For example, the first school that we worked with rolled it right into their economics class,” said Famulak. “What was really great about this program is, when we decided to roll this out, it was already in the middle of the semester, and it’s a very easy program to migrate into current curriculum.”

Founders plans on sharing student assessment improvements at the end of the program, based on the pre- and post-assessments given to the students as they work through the various financial literacy topics.

“We are very excited to partner with EverFi again for the upcoming school year,” said Famulak. “The first year was a great foundational year for us and we saw how it had impacted the students who had worked in the program already.”

Bringing private and public partners together is a core component of what EverFi does, and the Founders Financial Scholars Program is a classic example of how students are getting the skills they need to succeed in today’s society, according to Fitzgerald.

“This is just a great example of a bank — Founders Bank & Trust — that wanted to make a huge impact: teach students these critical life skills in Grand Rapids and at a district that was very open to teaching their students in a new and innovative way,” said Fitzgerald.

Founders Bank & Trust was established in 1991 and currently serves the greater Grand Rapids area with four locations. As a subsidiary of Founders Financial Corp., the community bank is part of the pending partnership with Evansville-based Old National Bancorp through a stock and cash transaction that is expected to be completed in 2015.

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