Bank to serve up financial literacy in school cafeteria

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On the lunch menu: chicken fingers with a side of mashed potatoes and a savings account.

Students at Naugatuck High School will get first-hand experience in personal finance when the Naugatuck Savings Bank opens a branch in their cafeteria.

“Students will have the opportunity to take care of some banking business while they’re at lunch,” said Associate Principal Jan Saam.

Students will design, construct, and staff the full service bank planned to open in September, according to Saam.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.

The Naugatuck Savings Bank board has approved the project and they’re in the process of applying for the appropriate regulatory approvals from state, according to Dawn Orsini, vice president of retail banking and branch administration.

The new bank will be a cross-circular learning experience for the students.

Kevin Wesche’s computer-aided drafting students designed the bank with help from the Building Department and Fire Marshall to make sure they followed building codes. Naugatuck Savings Bank is still working out a few details for safety, security, and configuration of the bank, Saam said.

Students from Chuck Uszakiewicz’s construction class will do much of the construction work on the new bank, which they hope to begin next month.

The bank will train students chosen from Kelly Black’s business class to work along side a teller from Naugatuck Savings.

“It gives them a real life career experience,” Orsini said.

The students will go through a one-week training course over the summer to learn the skills they need to run the bank. One bank employee will be on site to open new accounts and provide onsite guidance and support for the students, Orsini said. Students who work at the school bank will have the opportunity to work at another branch over the summer.

“We don’t have to go out and look for summer help. We already have a pool of trained employees,” Orsini said.

The goal for the bank is not only to provide employment opportunities for students and connivance for school staff, but to improve students’ financial literacy, said Saam. Students would be encouraged to open up savings accounts, checking accounts, and just learn some good solid financial literacy skills, said Saam.

“Part of our philosophy at Naugatuck Savings Bank is to help people achieve their financial goals…This really allows us to partner with the school in delivering curriculum appropriate for developing lifelong financial skills,” Orsini said.

For students to become successful, they need to understand basic financial skills, such as balancing a check book, Orsini said.

“These are really skills that they’re going to bring forward throughout their lives. I think it’s really important to embed personal financial responsibility at a young age,” Orsini said. “It’s amazing the lack of financial literacy in our county…As a community bank, we have a responsibility to help positively impact our youth in that regard.”

Saam hopes students in the journalism classes will do a photo essay to document the progress of the construction and keep it updated on their website.

Students, staff, and faculty will have access to the bank’s services during school hours yet to be determined. It will not be open to the public.

About two years ago, Saam visited a Naugatuck Savings Bank branch at Nonnewaug High School. She saw it in operation and talked to students and teachers involved with the program.

“They spoke very highly of it and said it was very beneficial,” Saam said.

Orsini called the program at Nonnewaug ‘a tremendous success.”

The bank has already put 16 students through the program since its inception about three years ago. They even hired one of the students after graduation, Orsini said.

In addition to running an in-school bank, Naugatuck Savings has partnered with Nonnewaug to go into the classroom and teach students important skills, Orsini said.

The bank’s training department has conducted interviewing skill classes and managers from their branches did mock interviews with the students.

“They get to go in and experience what a real interview experience is like,” Orsini said.

The bank’s marketing department holds an annual poster contest where students design marketing posters that are displayed at the school bank.

“I think what’s really critical with making this type of a partnership a success is it is really is a true partnership,” Orsini said.

The bank’s programs augment the normal curriculum. Last year, Naugatuck Savings conducted an entrepreneurship program and participated in the high school’s career day.

There are many other possibilities that they we haven’t tapped yet, Orsini said.

Thinking a similar program could benefit Naugatuck High School, Saam approached the bank. They were very interested.

Saam has been working with Orsini for the past year to bring their plans to fruition.

“She and her folks at the bank have been so accommodating and cooperative… I can’t thank them enough for all they’re doing at the high school,” Saam said.

She said the new bank will be convenient for students, staff, school clubs and organizations who already have accounts with Naugatuck Savings Bank and others who will open up new accounts.

“I know already that many of the organizations that we have here keep their money at Naugatuck Savings Bank,” Saam said.

It will also be easier for the school treasurer, Saam said.

Orsini said Naugatuck Savings Bank has a strong commitment to the communities that they serve.

“This is another way for us to solidify our commitment to the community as well as our future leaders, which are our students,” Orsini said.