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    Local News
    Monday, March 27, 2023

    What The...: Banking on education

    Miria Gray leads a class at Chelsea Groton Bank’s Center Groton branch before the pandemic. (photo submitted)

    Most people assessing the risks of elephant ownership wouldn’t go to their bank for advice.

    Likewise, few researching the role of gravity in Alice in Wonderland would think to head for Chelsea Groton Bank.

    But Chelsea Groton is the place to go — or, more specifically, Chelsea University.

    That’s where I learned that it’s wise to look a gift elephant in the mouth. I knew the many benefits of owning an elephant — the envy of neighbors, the sustainable transportation, the help with yard work — but I hadn’t considered the risks.

    I knew I’d need a shovel and a good pair of boots. But I hadn’t thought about insurance. An elephant can get sick, which could result in elephantine vet bills. And, given the potential for damages, liability insurance might be a good idea.

    There’s a lot more I could learn from this weird and wonderful little university. Like how to lay out a decent charcuterie. How to make a wreath out of coffee filters. How to craft with slime. How to say No.

    If I were a more responsible adult, I’d take some of the more grown-up courses: How to divvy up bills. How to budget. How to use Quickbooks. How to recognize financial elder abuse. How to escape from COVID-19 debt. How to escape from a submerged car.

    Many of the courses are presented by Miria Gray, Chelsea Groton’s community education officer.

    Gray worked at a bank while she was studying education at college. She later worked in marketing. Her lectures, which range from the nuances of credit scores to the physics and financial implications of Alice falling down a rabbit hole, demonstrate her gifts as a teacher. She can explain credit scores to college grads and air resistance to a child.

    For more specialized presentations, she brings in local experts. Edwin Muenzner, a CPA in Franklin, taught tax planning. Jason Vincent, president of Norwich Community Development Corporation, taught business. Laura Bulas, a CPA with New London’s Vann Bulas & Co., taught Quickbooks. Attorneys Frank Manfredi and Victoria Mueller taught a bit about business law. Deanna Rhodes, Norwich director of planning and neighborhood services, taught the use of site plans.

    Gray said that the pandemic helped propel C.U. (Chelsea University) to the new world of Zoom presentations. Before social distancing became a thing, most of the classes were in-person. Students had to go to a certain place at a certain time. Now anyone can participate from home or office, and the classes are available later at YouTube’s Chelsea Groton Bank channel.

    The pandemic also inspired the bank to offer courses for children who are stuck at home. Sometimes Gray reads from a children’s book, then relates the material to personal finance. Or, in the case of Alice in Wonderland, she asks her young Zoomers whether it’s smart to drink from a bottle just because it bears a label that says “Drink me.” (Answer: No.)

    She teaches “Math in Nature” for grades three to five, “Risk Management” for grades six to eight, and “Making Money,” for pre-K to third.

    And if you’re starved for something both useful and cute, check out the videos of kids explaining whether you should pay off your debt, tips on buying a car, and five things you can do if you have no savings.

    And for grown-ups stuck at home with an urge to craft, C.U. teaches projects such as making paper plate dinosaurs, dragon masks, a photo holder, pickles, and tomato sauce.

    But most of the courses relate directly to banking and finance.

    Tuition at C.U. is substantially less than the $56,890 that Connecticut College charges even though it offers nothing on elephant insurance or slime production. C.U. is free, and students need not be Chelsea Groton customers. The place to start is chelseagroton.com.

    Glenn Alan Cheney is a writer, translator, and managing editor of New London Librarium. He can be reached at glenn@nllibrarium.com.

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