“I’m a bank teller,” explained fifth-grader Harrison Fall. “Being a teller means I handle people’s money. I can give them change, and put money in a drawer. Every Friday I’m the person who counts the money.”
Fall is one of eight Linkhorn Park Elementary School (LPES) students selected to work in a Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union (VBSFCU) branch that recently opened in the school. The bank and the school celebrated the new endeavor with a ribbon-cutting event March 24.
VBSFCU Vice President of Marketing Amy Courtwright says it’s a natural fit.
“We are a smaller organization, which is why we’re such a great fit for our local schools. Everything that we do surrounds Virginia Beach City Public Schools and our local community. We’re always looking for ways to help our young people and give them the opportunity to learn about the importance of savings.”
The credit union has been teaching money lessons at the school throughout their partnership. Open each Friday morning, the Lions Credit Union is an extension of the lessons as students build their savings through regular deposits.
“They get excited even it is just a quarter in their hand and it’s saved,” Courtwright added. “So what we’re doing with Linkhorn Park is tapping into that excitement while they are young and creating that habit of savings.”
Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, a former banker, was on hand to cut the ribbon. “It’s never too early for young people to learn about money. To me, this is a great way to influence their positive decisions about money. When they save money at a young age, it should continue through the years and into their adult life; I really believe that.”
Once students open an account, they are full members of the VBSFCU. As a result, so is any student’s family member. Students line up with their deposit books and money to add to their accounts. That money is cheerfully taken and accounted for by fifth-grade tellers.
The Lions Credit Union is similar to a program started a Cox High School years ago which also utilizes student tellers. It is thought that LPES is the first elementary school student-run branch in the region.
Just like in the real world, interested students had to fill out an application and were interviewed by a panel of credit union officials and additional school business partners. The eight students selected were trained and taught how to dress for the job.
“We hear from local businesses about the lack of soft skills, that’s what they really want when they are hiring people,” Courtwright continued. “It’s the customer service, it’s saying hello and thank you, it’s shaking of the hands and the eye contact. These are things that these kids at these schools are learning and we’ve found that they’re pretty amazing employees.”
Another school partner, The Breeden Company, built the banking kiosk. Tim Faulkner, chief operating officer, says that the company benefits too. “We want to prepare the next generation of employees, so that they will stay in our community. That’s because they have developed the skill set that companies in our community demand.”
And bank teller Fall thinks regular savings helps young students set goals. “I’m really happy that my school can get involved in saving money, because everybody needs to have that excellent start in their life so they can save up for a car or college.”