Student-run bank opens at Indian River


It’s lunchtime at Indian River High School, and few students notice as teacher Jeff Bunting emerges from a new set of glass doors, until he shouts across the room:

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I please have your attention? The Del-One Federal Credit Union and Indian River High School partnership, which has been in planning for over a year, has come to fruition. We are open for business today! Who wants to be the first customer?”

Two sophomores run over, prompting some laughter as everyone else returns to their food.

Behind the new glass doors a former storage closet has been transformed into an actual banking kiosk.

“Do you guys know what the Del-One Credit Union is?” asks Del-One staffer Veronica Nhan-Nock.

“Not really, no. Elaborate!” sophomores Nariah Showell and Carolina Irizarry-Moran respond.

Credit unions are just like banks, except they can be not-for-profit organizations collectively owned by the members. Del-One Federal Credit Union is a member-owned, financial cooperative with roots back to 1960. Profits are returned to members through dividends, low rates or expanded services.

IRHS business students will serve as bank tellers at this in-school branch of Del-One. It’s all face-to-face contact, not an ATM. Students are being trained to process loan payments, deposits or cash withdrawals in the Del-One network. Each day, they will update the accounts, reconcile the transactions and secure the vault. The branch will open during lunch a few days a week.

They will not open new accounts — students and staff can pick up an application, but new membership paperwork would be forwarded to the Dagsboro or Georgetown banks. A banking professional will always be on-call during operating hours.

For teacher and in-school manager Jeff Bunting, this was the ultimate learning experience for his business students.

“I can teach this stuff in the classroom, but it becomes a whole lot more real when these students are actually working it,” he said.

Plus, the nine student staffers get real work experience, perfect whether they go into finance or not. They can certainly work more easily at a bank someday.

Student teller Victoria Gee said she doesn’t necessarily want to be a banker, “But I thought it would be a great experience to try something new. It’s my senior year so, obviously, I want to get as much experience as possible.”

After months of preparation and training in the Del-One computer system, student Luke Morgan called it “overwhelming” to finally open the doors.

“It’s exciting. It’s an opportunity for us to empower the youth with this type of … financial wellness and what it means to be financially sound,” said Horatio Garcia-Korosec, Del-One director of innovation.

Consider “how many kids in our school have really no idea what a savings account is, how to even open up a bank account, and some of their parents don’t allow them to, either,” said student teller Morgan Bomhardt. “So I think that this is a really good opportunity for students to learn about banking and learn how to save more money and budget. For me, I want to go into the financial field.”

The project is less about attracting customers and more about education for all the teenagers.

“We’re finding with our other student branches, students like to learn from their peers what it means to be financially literate,” said Garcia-Korosec.

It’s not just deposits and withdrawals, but other details about how finances, credit cards or loans work. Adults walk into banks every day not knowing how the banking system works. At IRHS, business students can share the real-world information they learn in Finance 101.

And today, the entire school will funnel through the lunchroom during the next two hours.

Construction took longer than expected, but “we saved $9,000 by having students do it, rather than having the external contractor,” said Bunting. “So being responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money, we’re always looking to (1) save money, but (2) integrate students from other pathways as well.”

Construction was done to Del-One specifications by IR students Caden Spillman and Tony Valasquez, overseen by teacher Allen Timmons. Later, the marketing and design departments will be helping with logo redesign and marketing around the school.

All IRHS students are now eligible to become voting credit union members, as are school district and state employees. (In general, eligibility is determined by residency, by employer or by sharing a household with other union members, so IRHS parents can also now join.)

Details are available online at www.del-one.org or by chatting with a student on duty. Savings accounts are open to any age. Checking accounts start at age 13 with a parent on the account. Credit cards are available at age 18.

 

By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter