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School bank celebrates 10th anniversary

Bank of Lancaster and Lancaster Middle School (LMS) made history in the Northern Neck 10 years ago when it partnered to form the first school bank in the area.

The project began when LMS teacher Sue Forrester, now retired, with the complete backing of principal Craig Kauffman, also retired, approached the bank about establishing a school bank to help students learn more about personal money management and the importance of learning how to save.

“Such a program walked hand in hand with our company’s long-standing commitment to financial education,” said senior vice president and consumer education director Hazel Farmer. “We were excited and pleased to be asked to join with LMS to make this worthwhile program a reality. We knew we could not pass up such an important opportunity.

“For many years, Bank of Lancaster has had a strong commitment to help young people understand the importance of learning how to save at an early age and learning how to handle credit responsibly,” continued Farmer. “The choices these young people make today can truly affect their lives for years to come and as community bankers, we want very much to share our knowledge and our experience with them.

“Through our partnership with both the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) and the American Bankers Association, we want to help these young people understand that financial education is a life-long process that begins early in life. The school bank program over the last 10 years has given us a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these students and help them develop a habit of saving. It has also given us the opportunity to help these young students develop life-long decision making skills that are needed to become effective, informed citizens, consumers, investors, employees. And that is exciting!”

Farmer, Forrester and Kauffman worked, along with a team of both bank and school co-workers, on the infrastructure for the school bank, which included everything from developing job descriptions to time lines for training the students.

“The process put in place 10 years ago, continues to work today,” said Farmer.

The program addresses financial literacy standards of learning and the school bank is staffed and operated by the students with supervision from bank personnel. The partnership provides a model where students participate as managers, tellers and marketing agents, she said.

“When we started the process 10 years ago, we had a ‘Name the Bank’ contest,” said Farmer. “We received over 500 entries from the student body. We chose ‘Bright Futures Student Bank,’ and the winning entry was submitted by Kayleigh Webster, a fourth-grader at the time. Kayleigh is now in college. The name said what we were trying to accomplish … help these young people have a ‘bright future’.”

At the beginning of each school year job descriptions are posted and seventh-grade students are given an opportunity to interview for the positions of branch managers, tellers and marketing associates. This year principal Jessica Davis and Farmer conducted the interviews.

“All of last year’s student bankers, who are now in the eighth grade, will be working the bank again this year,” said Farmer. “So when you only need a small number of tellers and marketing associates from the seventh-graders to complete the staff, it is a tough choice. I am always amazed at how well these young people do during their interview.”

Once selected to work the school bank, all student bankers undergo programs to help them understand privacy, confidentiality and they sign a Code of Ethics. The tellers go through a training program and become real tellers. They count their cash drawer each morning before the bank opens, they handle the deposits, learn debits and credit, cash-ins and cash-outs, and they have to balance their drawer at the end of the day.

On the days the students are assigned to work the school bank, they miss several class periods so they have to make up all assignments. If they have a test or field trip or anything that keeps them from working the bank on their assigned day, it is their responsibility to work with the school bank branch manager to find a replacement.

“These are life lessons they are learning,” said Farmer. “We are so proud to be a part of this.”

All LMS students may open a savings account with Bright Futures Bank. It only takes a $1 to open the account. In order for every student at the school to be able to participate in the program, Bank of Lancaster provides each student with their initial $1 deposit.

Once the account is open, deposits can be as little as 50 cents. It’s not about the amount of the deposit, it’s about the discipline of coming to the bank each week and learning to save, she said. Whether it’s allowance or money a child receives for their birthday or Christmas, students are urged to save a portion. Students also are recognized and rewarded for saving regularly, said Farmer.

At the beginning of the school year, bank personnel are on hand to open accounts and Farmer says they even have opportunities for students to win $10 extra for their account. Each student opening an account gets to draw a dollar bill from a bin; and if the serial number on their bill matches a list of winning serial numbers, the student wins an additional $10 for their savings account. This year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school bank, the first 10 depositors at the celebration also received $10 for their savings account.

The 10th anniversary celebration was attended by school administration, bank directors, friends and family members of this year’s student bank team.

“We were also honored to have Matt Bruning with us,” said Farmer.

Bruning is the senior vice president of government and member relations with the VBA, headquartered in Richmond.

“The VBA has been a great partner with us in financial literacy programs and we were so pleased to have Matt as a part of our very special celebration day,” said Farmer, who also indicated she was pleased to receive a phone call from Skylar Kellum Taylor, one of the student tellers when the school bank opened.

Taylor is now married and working in a bank in Texas. It is very rewarding to know that the school bank program had a hand in helping her make a career decision, said Farmer.

The school bank has received the Virginia Tech Excellence in Education Award and other state and national recognition.

“It has been a personal pleasure to watch so many of these young people grow over the years, and I am joined by many of my co-workers at Bank of Lancaster who have been directly involved in this program,”said Farmer. “This year the school bank is supervised by Ann Marchetti. We again commend Lancaster Middle School for providing this opportunity for their students, with a special thanks to Mrs. Brenda Pittman, who now manages the program on the school side.”

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