In-school bank in Riverdale gives students a jump on finances, careers -- Gazette.Net



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For two years, Parkdale High School students have staffed a bank in the Riverdale school. Administrators say the program is starting to pay off.

Capital One bank opened the student-run branch — the only one of its kind in Prince George’s County — in 2011. The partnership has been a huge success, according to school officials.

“I think it’s changed the other students’ minds about saving and about banking, and what a bank is for and how they operate,” said business teacher Mary Alvarenga, who serves as coordinator for the banking program. “It teaches them banks are not just for adults, that they can use banks, as well.”

Capital One started its student banker program in 2007 to help promote financial literacy in the communities the bank serves, according to Phillip Quintana, senior vice president and spokesman for Capital One. The company has two student-run banks in New York and one in New Jersey.

The Capital One branch is the only commercial student-run bank branch in the state, although two credit unions, MECU of Baltimore and First Financial Federal Credit Union of Baltimore have student-run branches in Baltimore-area schools.

Under the program, 10 students staff the bank for a few hours each week under a Capital One branch manager, who is not a student, and work Saturdays at local Capital One branches, as well, for which they are paid $11 an hour, Quintana said.

Student bankers miss some class time while they work, but bank hours overlap with lunch to better accommodate students, administrators said.

Parkdale Principal Cheryl Logan credits the program with improving her students’ financial literacy skills, noting that Parkdale serves a diverse community of immigrants, some of whom might not know the benefits of banking and financial saving.

“Training the next generation to become full partners in the traditional economy is really great for our students, in particular the opportunity for learning firsthand about budgeting and saving,” Logan said.

The school branch is only open to the school’s students, teachers and administrators. It offers savings and checking accounts, although checking accounts are only available to those 18 and older.

The bank branch is in a room next to the school cafeteria, in a similar style to those found in malls and stores. The branch does not maintain security staff, but otherwise has the same security features found in other storefront bank branches, Quintana said.

He said the Parkdale bank branch is subject to the same banking regulations and procedures as any other branch.

“We are a real bank here,” Quintana said.

In addition to assisting customers, student bankers also speak to underclassmen about the importance of saving.

“Who better to tell teenagers how to save money than other teenagers? I mean, who else do we listen to?” student banker Cindy Navarro said.

To qualify, student bankers had to submit a résumé and go through an interview process, Quintana said. The process is geared toward selecting a range of rising seniors who can best benefit from the program.

Students then had to complete two weeks of training at a Capital One bank training center in Laurel and complete financial education classes during the summer. “Then, we were sent to actual branches and worked as actual tellers during the summer,” student teller Justina Molokwu said.

Divesh Rizal, one of the student bankers, said the program has broadened his horizons and made him consider bank management as a career.

“It’s more than a financial literacy program. It’s more than making a student a teller. It’s a whole personal development program,” he said.

Student banker Sidney Ashe credited the program with teaching him to make saving a part of his life.

“I was able to purchase my own car by saving, and I thank Capital One, because without this program, I’d still be thinking, ‘How am I going to get a car?’”

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net