DPS Partners With Business, Bank To Push Financial Literacy

11/15/2011 05:03 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Detroit Public Schools launched two initiatives Tuesday to teach students the value of saving money.

Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh made a special appearance at Renaissance High Tuesday morning to kickstart one of the programs, a multimedia project called "Financial Football." The effort combines an educational video game with classroom lessons on money management based on the award-winning Practical Money Skills for Life program.

"I think the video game was excellent," Suh said in a Fox 2 interview. "They're great questions that I needed to know as I got into college and got into the NFL."

Suh served as a coach for one of the teams playing the video game and Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon coached for the other.

Visa and the NFL sponsored the financial skills lesson plan, with assistance from the Michigan Jumpstart Coalition, an organization which advocates financial literacy in schools. The State Department of Treasury is distributing the program to every public middle and high school in Michigan.

A second effort partners First Independence Bank with the Drew Transitional Center, a school that serves special needs students between the ages of 20 and 26. Its central feature is an in-school bank.

Drew students will run the bank, taking turns working as tellers, managers and marketers. Deposits can be made at school, but withdrawals must be made at official bank branches with the assistance of a parent or guardian.

"This student-led bank is going to be a valuable tool for when our students enter the adult world and will provide them the opportunity to transfer skills learned in the building to the real-world environment," said Drew Principal Robert Avedisian in a release. "It will also teach them accountability. This is one of many programs that will be coming throughout November."

The program aims to reinforce basic math and money-handling skills and highlight the importance of saving money. Staff from the community bank will be on hand to supervise and coach students whenever the school bank is open. Drew Transition center serves nearly 500 students.

Although educators like Avedisian proudly support partnerships between schools and businesses, critics say that commercially-backed lesson plans serve as a subtle form of advertising.

“Corporate activity in schools ... is portrayed as socially responsible action, but almost always involves an attempt to influence students to buy, either immediately or in their future," argue authors Alex Molnar, Faith Boniger and Joseph Fogarty in the study "The Educational Cost of Schoolhouse Commercialism, 2011," published by National Education Policy Center.

"They insinuate sponsors' points of view or products into the daily life of the school in a way that students accept them without thinking about them."