Financial planning is a hard lesson to learn.
Tellers at the Prosperity Bank branch at Glen Rose Intermediate are busy at work every Friday morning, putting the lesson to action. Meanwhile, banking customers learn a lesson of their own - the rewards of saving.
The tellers, fifth grade students, accept deposits from fellow students while providing quality customer service and accurate accounting.
While the branch is only open 30 minutes weekly, 7:30-8 a.m. every Friday, students who are customers and employees of the bank are getting hands-on lessons in employment, economics, life skills and more, according to Principal Laurie Mapes.
The banking center was opened on the Glen Rose ISD campus three years ago, shortly after American State Bank opened a branch in the city. When the bank's commercial branches recently changed names, so did the educational savings institution, McKinnon said.
"When the bank opened, we had all sorts of meetings, in one of them, a bank employee said establishing a school bank was something her former employer had done for the community," McKinnon said. "I taught school for 25 years and that was an exciting idea. Laurie was my principal when I retired and I shared the idea with her. She was also excited by the idea so we went to Abilene to visit a school bank. We borrowed a few ideas and came up with some others to make the bank our own."
The banking year begins with a meeting with students where McKinnon and Mapes explain the banking industry and establishing savings accounts to students. Then a meeting is held with fifth graders regarding prospective employment as tellers, which is followed by an arduous application and interview process.
Prior to being selected to serve as tellers, students must go through an interview at Prosperity Bank, where Banking Center President E.K. Hufstedler sits alongside "aspiring banker" and retired teacher Lynda McKinnon as students, dressed in business casual attire and with typical interview jitters, patiently wait their turn.
"There is a strict criteria applicants must follow," McKinnon said, adding Mapes reviews submitted application and selects interviewees from the applicant pool. "A parent-volunteers helps run the bank and sits in on the interview process and we decide who to hire."
Mapes said the campus bank employs 15 tellers through the school year, three per six weeks after the program begins in the second six weeks.
Once they are hired, the students must complete teller training without computers and other tools used by their professional counterparts. Much like the "real world," they have to get up early for work and open the branch before customers arrive at 7:30 a.m. They are also taught that proprietary information, including account balances, cannot be discussed.
"A bank is a confidential place," McKinnon said. "The position also requires record taking abilities and balancing accounts," McKinnon said.
Customers are issued cards containing their account information, and the mother supervisor takes the money to Prosperity Bank on Big Bend Trail when the bank closes.
"The volunteer moms double check balances and serve as a safety net for the students," Mapes said.
Once a student has accumulated $25 in their school account, their family is sent a letter explaining the program and inviting them to open an interest earning account at the local branch.
To the surprise of the organizers, the program has taught more than mathematics, economics and accounting - it recently led one student to take up marketing. When the bank opened about four weeks ago, the student noticed the campus bank was not getting much business, McKinnon said.
"She said, maybe we need posters and she went home and made seven posters overnight," she said.
Mapes said the campus is "covered in posters" promoting the bank.
"Some of the students have really gone beyond the basics of being a teller," she said.
McKinnon said the school, teachers, parents and students have truly embraced the program and taken ownership of the bank.
And savings quickly begin to add up for the students.
"If they don't open an account at Prosperity Bank, they get their money back," Mapes said, adding students offer various reasons for saving their money. "Some of them say they are going to keep saving until they can buy an XBOX or something they would like to have. But for others, it means a lot more, they talk about using their account to save money to go to college."
Both women agree the program has been an interesting endeavor and proved its value.
"They have really learned a lot," Mapes said.