Rodney Abston began with the usual pleasantries in welcoming North Little Rock High School students.
But soon after, it was game on, and his loyalty was clear.
“Go, Team 3!” cheered Abston, market executive for Regions Bank in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Team 1 is going to win!” countered Shalonda Tillman, a Regions financial wellness relationship manager.
Abston and Tillman are teammates every other day of the year. But on this day, they were rivals in their volunteer roles as student advisors. Bragging rights were at stake.
The competitive fun was part of “Dollar Detectives,” a virtual workshop put on by Regions and EVERFI, a financial wellness provider that works with Regions to reach more students with vital money-management skills. North Little Rock High School is one of more than 100 high schools served by the Regions and EVERFI collaboration.
Originally, this contest was scheduled for spring 2020. But we all know what happened then.
The pandemic closed schools. Everything changed.
Yet the need for financial guidance is constant, through all seasons of life. And this year, in recognition of April as National Financial Literacy Month, the workshop moved forward – digitally.
Just over two dozen students in two socially distanced classrooms virtually connected with their team advisors to participate.
The game featured an escape room-style format requiring quick, yet critical thinking by students to solve real-world financial challenges.
“Presenting activities like Dollar Detectives brings awareness to life-changing money decisions through a classroom format,” said Tillman. “It offers students a snapshot of money management and budgeting. It also promotes teamwork and heightens attention around money awareness.”
Abston added, “Understanding the risk and rewards related to credit cards and developing budgets are life lessons students will use the rest of their lives.”
For Tillman, participating in the event was especially meaningful as a North Little Rock High School graduate.
“As an alum, I remembered exactly where the students were,” said Tillman. “It allowed me to reminisce on my own thought process in high school. During the activity, I used this as a tool to reach my student team where they are.”
A competitive advantage for Team 1? You decide.
Abston also reflected on his own high school days in delivering his welcome remarks, sharing a piece of advice he received as a student: “The greatest investment you can make is in yourself – in your education and in your future,” he said.
After the competition launched and students began working through problems prompting them to think about savings goals, personal budgets and planning for unexpected events, some groups ran into another unexpected problem – technology difficulties.
While some collaborated and calculated with ease, others experienced frozen screens and delays. It’s the norm in this unusual time of virtual learning. Abston noted that technology challenges are just one hurdle educators have adeptly faced in the past year.
“Teachers like Ms. Douglas and Ms. Blakely are our hometown heroes,” said Abston. “They have been focused on ensuring students continue to learn, even when facing unexpected challenges like those we faced during this activity.”
Ultimately, the five groups came back together as one large team to solve each problem – with an occasional shout-out to their smaller, previously assigned teams, of course.
It’s a chance to gain practical experience before making real-world decisions that can have repercussions for a long time.
Joye Hehn, Next Step financial education manager for Regions Bank
What were some takeaways for students?
Several noted it was harder than they expected. Another shared they learned more about how to calculate percentages.
“I learned that teamwork is important,” said one student. “That, and calculating money, trying to collect funds and money management is incredibly important. It’s a big thing, and you need to be smart with money and credit cards.”
It’s a lesson students in several states are learning.
“We leverage a combination of our bank associates’ experience, along with the EVERFI curriculum, to reach and teach financial education to thousands of students,” said Joye Hehn, Next Step financial education manager for Regions Bank. “They are able to apply the online content and classroom instruction they’ve learned during hands-on activities like Dollar Detectives. It’s a chance to gain practical experience before making real-world decisions that can have repercussions for a long time.”
Tillman agrees that exercises like Dollar Detectives offer students a challenging yet fun way to master financial fundamentals.
“Sharing this information as early as possible can be a real game changer,” she said.
A game where everyone comes away a winner.