At Trailside, the lesson du jour is money basics | ParkRecord.com

At Trailside, the lesson du jour is money basics

Wells Fargo banker teaches financial literacy to students in French

Alasdair Ekpenyong, a Wells Fargo banker, reads in French to a first-grade dual-language immersion class at Trailside Elementary School on Monday as part of a financial literacy lesson. He says the earlier students can begin learning the basics of how to be responsible with money, the better.

Alasdair Ekpenyong learned how to speak French as a child growing up in Baltimore. Years later, he became a banker.

For years, those two aspects of his life were unrelated.

Until recently.

On Monday, Ekpenyong, a personal banker at Wells Fargo and the Park City branch's community education advocate, taught a lesson on financial literacy to a first-grade classroom at Trailside Elementary School. And he did it in French, because the students are part of the school's dual-language immersion program.

"This is the first one I've done in French," he said. "Typically it's in English. But it's really fun to stretch myself and help the kids and see a really cool part of the Utah education system."

Cathy Robinson, the dual-language immersion teacher who organized Ekpenyong's visit, said it's critical for students to begin learning the basics of finance at an early age. The goal is to set them up for futures in which they understand how to make responsible decisions with money.

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In preparation for Ekpenyong's lesson, the class learned about concepts such as needs versus wants, and the purposes of things like credit cards and bank accounts.

"It must start in first grade," she said. "For instance, there are children who think a credit card is something you pay with when you don't have money — which some adults probably think that, too. But it's very important for them to understand."

Ekpenyong, who typically teaches financial lessons to adults in his role as a community education advocate, echoed those sentiments.

"It's a great opportunity for these kids to start early with this foundation and hopefully build on it later," he said. "I think even some of the adults I speak to didn't get as much of a foundation as maybe they would have liked. For these kids to be getting education about the different ways to pay, and how to choose between needs and wants, it's a very awesome opportunity for them at this age."

Financial literacy is part of the first-grade social studies curriculum taught in classrooms throughout the state. But not many students learn it in French. Robinson said that twist added an additional layer because the effort it took to ensure students understand the vocabulary.

"I might say in an English-speaking class, 'Checks, credit cards, bank accounts,' and might think they know what that means when they might not," she said. "But in French, when I have to explain what a credit card is through gesture, through mime, through a one-woman show, then they have a pretty clear understanding."