Wow: High school students open an actual bank on campus to teach financial literacy


By Robert Stitt

What do Mike Tyson, Michael Vick, Lenny Dykstra, Latrell Sprewell, Lawrence Taylor, and Scottie Pippin have in common? They are all on the list of once ultra-rich athletes who have lost their fortunes and are now nearly broke. Sadly, the list is pretty long as many young sport stars leave high school, even college, without a clue how to handle their finances.
In an effort to improve financial literacy among youth, Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, has opened an actual bank branch on the school campus. The partnership with Woodforest National Bank provides student internships and is a hands-on learning center for students to learn banking skills and finance. Woodforest, while based in Texas, has over 80 branches in North Carolina. The bank’s senior vice president, Jessica Valentine, says that it is the first branch that they have opened in a high school.

According to WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio online, students, staff, and families will be able to use the school branch to open accounts, make deposits, and take care of their banking needs. A staff was hired to oversee the branch, including a manager and service representative. Valentine added, “We’re here on a weekly basis sort of providing any follow-up training or questions or things like that. So, we’re just supporting the staff that’s here, the kids.”

In addition to classes and internships, some students have actual jobs at the bank. Senior Kiara Lowther is not only a student at Hillside, but she is a Loan Officer as well. She has high praise for her finance class and banking experience, and tells how they taught her to balance her money and not waste so much “on fast food and a lot of pointless stuff.”

Priscilla Ross, head of Hillside’s Business and Finance Academy said, “Hopefully this will generate some more interest in students wanting to learn more about the Finance Academy, especially those students who are going to be accountants, or are thinking about going into anything finance. They definitely would want to come to Hillside High School.”

The first $500 deposited during the grand opening came from State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who made a donation from the state’s Unclaimed Property fund. Cowell had this message during the ceremony, “Promoting financial literacy is a top priority for my office. This year, I’m looking forward to traveling the state to emphasize the importance of building better money management life skills and saving practices that will benefit North Carolinians from early childhood through retirement….This student-run bank training center is an exciting opportunity to help students with sound money management skills, career-training skills, and mentoring opportunities.”

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