BrandMortgage is taking a unique approach to providing a financial education to school-aged students. Teaming up with the leading education technology company EverFi, BrandMortgage now offers a financial literacy computer program to Gwinnett County Public high schools at no cost.
Known as BrandAcademy, this 10-module, 6-hour program uses the latest new media tools, including 3D gaming, Twitter-like messaging tools, animation and more, to teach students about important financial topics. This includes learning about saving and budgeting, credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, 401Ks, and other critical concepts.
“We learned that the State of Georgia requires financial literacy training for all high school students, and we knew it would be important for our company to offer this program to Gwinnett County Public Schools. Our parent company, The Brand Banking Company (BrandBank), was formed in Gwinnett in 1905, therefore we have strong ties within the community and a desire to see its residents succeed,”# says BrandMortgage CEO Greg Shumate.
BrandMortgage also saw the program as a way to increase graduate rates by giving students relevant knowledge that directly applies to their livelihood. “If we teach young adults how to be financially responsible when it comes time to get their first credit card, car, or house loan, they”ll be able to make the wisest choice possible. Therefore in return, they”ll be good financial stewards in Gwinnett,”# says Deirdra Cox, vice president and community development officer at BrandBank.
BrandAcademy”s interactive curriculum engages students and is an easy platform for teachers to assess the students” progress. The program starts with a pre-test to gauge how much the student knows about finances initially. From there, students will enter a virtual world as a customized avatar character at three different life stages, much like today”s popular video games, and travel through 10 different learning modules each lasting about 30 to 45 minutes.
Throughout each stage, students earn points in the game by making smart financial decisions within a variety of real life scenarios, such as opening a checking account or paying off student loans. At the end, students take a post-test to see how much information they”ve retained during the program”s duration. In addition, through the program”s analytical elements, teachers are able to see what areas students are struggling in and provide additional help as necessary.
“We”re hoping this program is a platform teachers will use and students will enjoy. It saves teachers” time and effort in creating original curriculum and gets their jobs done better, faster, and easier,”# says Shumate. “This helps teachers meet the course requirements in a format that is fun for students.”#
As a result of this program, BrandAcademy has graduated almost 600 students in five Gwinnett high schools since January 2013 and its impact has stretched far beyond the classroom walls.
“We”re impacting socioeconomics because students are coming home excited to talk to their parents about the financial lessons they”ve learned through BrandAcademy. It encourages parents, who may be unfamiliar with these financial topics, to become educated. We”re creating the next generation of individuals that are financially literate, knowledgeable and productive bank customers, and intelligent homebuyers,”# says Cox.
Cox also shared a testimony from a high school student who recently graduated from the BrandAcademy.
“A student told us he learned about 401Ks from the program and he now felt he could help his mom decide what she should invest in. He said his mom was stressed because she felt she wasn”t smart enough to make the appropriate financial choices. He was excited to teach her what he had learned through BrandAcademy to alleviate her burden. When he shared his story, many of the other students eyes lit up because they too had this experience with their families.”#
In addition to the public school system, BrandAcademy offers their program to its non-profit partners, including many local shelters, to help those families obtain the knowledge to regain control of their financial lives. Parents are also welcome to take this program alongside their children.
BrandMortgage has also helped students in other Georgia counties. Taliaferro County recently experienced a cut in its government funding for the county”s school system. BrandMortgage extended a helping hand by offering BrandAcademy to their schools.
“Taliaferro County is a part of our BrandMortgage footprint, as it borders Greene County, and is 20 minutes from our Lake Oconee mortgage office,”# says Shumate. “Our goal is to expose the youth of this county to the post-secondary education opportunities available to them within a two hour drive from their hometown, and to expose them to a bigger vision. We believe it”s important to give the smallest school system in Georgia the same resources the largest school system is able to use.”#
BrandMortgage is a full-service lender offering a wide variety of mortgage finance products. The company provides loans in 10 states with 21 mortgage offices. Learn more at www.brandmortgage.com.