Borough bank’s investment in NHS paying off

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Naugatuck High School teacher George Macary, left, conducts some business with student teller Justin Rinaldi at the Naugatuck Savings Bank branch inside the high school Dec. 16.

NAUGATUCK — Over three months since the new the Naugatuck Savings Bank branch opened in Naugatuck High School, students and staff are giving it positive reviews.

“It’s actually worked out much better than I even anticipated it working out. I couldn’t be more pleased,” Principal Jan Saam said.

The branch, which is staffed by high school students, opened to in the cafeteria in September.

Saam said many students have opened accounts at the bank and others already had accounts there.

Business teacher Kelly Black said students are more comfortable opening accounts with their peers.

“It’s somewhat intimidating for them to go into a branch and this is not intimidating for them at all,” Black said.

Tiffany Swiatlon, the adult branch manager, said the high school branch is a form of community outreach.

“It wasn’t something we came into expecting to make a lot of money from. It’s more the involvement with the school,” Swiatlon said.

Swiatlon said her student staffers love working at the bank. They love it so much, in fact, that many of them hang out in the bank, even when they’re not working. The little office features student artwork and pictures of the tellers on the walls.

Swiatlon has been working with Naugatuck Savings Bank for 10 years and also manages the in-school bank at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury.

The school bank is a full-service branch open only to high school students and staff. Students went through a 40-hour training course over the summer to prepare them for the job. When working at the bank, they must wear a bank uniform and nametag and do everything from cashing paychecks to opening accounts, to processing withdrawals. The only functions the branch doesn’t offer is lending and an ATM.

Black said she picked the eight student tellers from her classes based more on their dependability than academic achievement.

“I knew that they had the personality to be the most customer-service oriented,” Black said.

The students receive community service hours for working at the bank, but now the tellers are competing to land a summer internship at the bank’s branch on Church Street that will pay in cash rather than credit.

Swiatlon said she will choose about half the students from Naugatuck and Nonnewaug for the summer internship.

“It’s going to be tough to choose. They really exceeded our expectations here, they really have,” Swiatlon said.

Student tellers said the gig has taught them responsibility and customer service.

Junior Mason Cabanas said he’s learned to manage his own finances and the experience will look great on his application to the University of North Carolina’s business school, where he hopes to study marketing and business.

Senior teller Amber Kuczenski said she likes communicating with fellow students.

“It’s fun. It’s something different that I didn’t see myself going in to,” Kuczenski said.

Senior Nicole Vieira has no plans to go into banking — she wants to be a dental hygienist. But she said the job has taught her time management and patience. She also said the work experience looks good on her resume.

“I can already say I’ve done banking and I have a part-time job,” Vieira said.