Naugatuck Savings Bank invests in high school

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From left, Naugatuck High School student bank tellers, Nicole Vieira, Amber Kuczenski, NSB branch manager Tiffany Swiatlon, business teacher Kelly Black, and student tellers Michael Uva and Brianna Britto inside of the newly constructed Naugatuck Savings Bank branch inside Naugatuck High School Wednesday afternoon. The bank will be open to students Monday. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Katarina Gullotta just wanted to take art last year as a Naugatuck High School freshman, but thanks to a scheduling mishap she now has a job as a bank teller.

Gullotta was placed into an introduction to business class and at the end of the year was selected to serve as a student teller for the Naugatuck Savings Bank branch that will open Monday in the high school cafeteria.

“I thought it would be a great experience,” said Gullotta, 14, now a sophomore. “With my experience in the bank, I wouldn’t mind working in banking.”

The branch will only be open to students, faculty, and staff at the school. The bank trained eight student tellers over the summer who will staff it nine hours a week for community service hours under the supervision of a professional branch manager.

The in-school branch will perform all the functions of any other Naugatuck Savings Bank branch except for lending, said Dawn Orsini, the bank’s vice president of retail banking and branch administration. The cafeteria does not have an ATM either.

“That’s something that we might consider going forward,” Orsini said.

Customers will be able to open and manage checking, savings, and vacation club accounts and certificates of deposit, among other opportunities, Orsini said.

Bank employees will continue working with the school to give workshops to students and will bring in branch managers to conduct mock job interviews, Orsini said.

“It’s really a unique opportunity for us to partner with the school to support their mission to embed financial responsibility at their age, while providing the opportunity for the students to benefit from a real life career experience,” Orsini said.

Principal Jan Saam proposed the bank open a branch in the school two years ago after seeing its branch at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury.

“I said, ‘Really? You have a bank in the school? How cool is that?’” Saam said. “From there it just took on a life of its own.”

The bank should help the school satisfy a state Department of Education suggestion that schools promote financial literacy, Saam said.

Personal finance and accounting teacher Kelly Black picked the tellers from among her students last year. Students who do not work at the bank and who might not otherwise open accounts will be able to practice financial skills during their lunch periods, Black said.

“It’s somewhat intimidating to go into a bank branch,” Black said. “They’re going to be in their comfort zone.”

The school spent about $3,000 in federal grant funding on construction supplies for the new branch, Saam said. The bank paid for some of the steel, furniture, computer and phone equipment, said Orsini, who declined to say how much the bank spent.

About 45 construction and architecture students gained practical experience from the project as well when they designed and built the small two-room office earlier this year. Building Inspector Bill Herzman taught the architecture class how to comply with codes, teacher Kevin Wesche said.

“It was a real life, great experience for them,” Wesche said.