The student-run branch provides financial literacy and work experience for members of Crenshaw’s Business Entrepreneurship and Technology program.
By Tracey Edwards
Students at Crenshaw High School can have a pretty unique banking experience. They can walk into a Union Bank branch right on their campus and complete transactions with their fellow students.
The tellers at this live branch are Crenshaw High School students, and they are trained to open checking and savings accounts, collect and distribute money, and inform their customers about the products that a typical bank has to offer.
The branch is a part of an innovative program designed by Union Bank to provide students with real-world financial education and work experience. The student bankers have an opportunity to acquire skills in finance as well as leadership and the hands-on experience of working in a bank. Traditional banking products and services are available to students and their families, school staff, school administrators and teachers.
“At an early age it’s very important to teach financial literacy to our high school students in the community,” said Vernell Taylor, Union Bank Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager. “Children don’t really get financial literacy training, so why not at the high schools? We teach them early, and it creates a domino effect for their families, peers, and community.”
Taylor has more than 25 years of financial service industry experience, and she began her career at Union Bank as a teller.
The students in this program are learning how to track their money, budgeting, and online and mobile banking. Students who are not in the program are also benefitting by being able to have a banking experience on their campus, with people who are their peers.
For the students who are in the program, the skills that they are learning will help them well beyond high school.
“Prior to becoming an intern I lacked education within finance,” said Alejandra Lopez-Arreguin, student intern. “Because as a teen, you’re more worried about the spending portion than the saving portion. As a senior, it just really hit me, how am I going to pay for college? So I started saving money on my own.”
In addition to building skills in finance, leadership, management and marketing, the students receive a $500 stipend for working in the branch and a $1,000 scholarship for college when the course is completed. Since the inception of this program in 2014, all of the interns have graduated from high school and attended college. The program has 12 interns per year.
This program is also preparing these students for the workforce.
“I’ve learned that customer service is really important,” said Quianna McGlory, student intern. “Not just in a bank, but when I get out in the real world, I’m going to be interacting with people a lot. So I’ve learned that I have to be patient with the customers. I’ve learned customer service isn’t about just getting the job done, but it’s also about getting to know the customer and seeing if I can do more for the customer.”
This program partners with Crenshaw High School’s Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program. Students in that program are eligible to apply for the Union Bank internship program.
“We develop entrepreneurial mindsets, because whether they own a business themselves or work for somebody else, the requirement in any one of those workspaces will be an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Maynard Brown, lead teacher and founder of the Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program.
Brown teaches students how to run a business from creating a business plan to managing the company’s daily operations to its finances. His program teaches the students the basic fundamentals of business, and the Union Bank internship teaches them about banking and gives them work experience.
“That’s (Union Bank internship) about a professional understanding of the work environment,” Brown said. “That’s about having some skills that makes you employable.”