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Bank looks to become first in state to locate in school

An article in the American Banker’s Association Journal caught the eye of some officials at First State Community Bank in Farmington earlier this year. The story was about a branch bank which opened inside a high school in Milwaukee, Wis.

First State Community Bank President Matt Sebastian and FSCB Community Development Representative Julie Powers spoke with Principal Dr. David Waters about the article and the possibility of such a project in the Farmington R-7 School District. To further explore the idea, the trio and Superintendent Dr. W.L. Sanders traveled to Milwaukee to see first hand how the program worked. After the trip discussions began between the bank and the district to make this a possibility.

Moving ahead, at the September Board of Education meeting Sebastian and Powers informed the board about the trip and what would be required to implement such a bank branch in Farmington High School. Upon the board’s approval, the bank took the first steps to make it a reality.

&#8220Within the next few weeks we will submit the proposal in order to receive regulatory approval to open the in-school bank,” said Sebastian this week. &#8220The process usual takes about 30 days.”

Waters said new state graduation requirements, which will be implemented with next year’s freshman class, will necessitate students take a personal finance class before graduating. Also, the district currently has a Contracted Education program, in which students gain on-the-job experience at a local business and credit for the class based on their job performance and other evaluations.

&#8220Those students working in the bank would do so much like the contracted education program,” said Waters.

Currently plans call for the in-school branch bank to be open during the next school year. Much like the bank branch in Wisconsin, the bank here will have a supervisor to assist the students in incorporating the financial skills they will be learning. It will also be staffed by seniors, and will also have a board of directors made up of students.

The branch window would be opened a limited number of hours, three days a week. The services FSCB plans to offer would be deposits, withdrawals and taking applications for new accounts. An A.T.M. will also be included at the branch.

Powers looks at the school branch as a way to get students involved in the banking process.

&#8220The branch will make banking more accessible and easier for the students to understand,” she said. It’s an exciting opportunity, she added, to help students better understand their personal finances. The opportunity to work at a branch may also give students a first experience at post-graduation employment opportunities.

&#8220The district is looking at this as a way to develop career interest. In Wisconsin, some of the students involved in the program went directly into a banking career,” said Waters.

He is also mindful of the safety concerns some may see as an issue to having a bank branch inside the high school. The branch will have the same security cameras found in other bank facilities, ultimately lending another set of eyes and ears for the district.

&#8220I think the increased presence of traffic in the lobby will also be beneficial,” said Waters.

But most importantly, both the bank officials and school administrators see the opportunity to teach students the importance of wise-money managing skills as a big plus for the program. Lynn Wisdom, of First State Community Bank, would be the liaison for the program between the bank and the district. She said teachers are often expressing concerns for ways to teach students financial responsibility.

&#8220This will be a great opportunity for students to learn the importance of good money skills before they begin to receive all the credit card applications when they are in college,” she said.

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