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Banking & Finance, Higher Education, and Nonprofits

Bank opens student-run location at school

December 9, 2014
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Bank opens student-run bank at school
Valleywood Middle School in Kentwood is part of the Kentwood Public Schools. Courtesy United Way

A bank and nonprofit have partnered with a local middle school to launch an in-school bank run by students.

The partnership among Comerica Bank, Heart of West Michigan United Way in Grand Rapids and Kentwood Public Schools will launch the Comerica's Youth Savings Program tomorrow in Kentwood at Valleywood Middle School.

“Piggy bank” savings

The Youth Savings Program will give students a hands-on experience with banking operations, personal banking and the value of saving money.

Students will operate the savings program under the supervision of school staff and Comerica banking staff and manage personal bank accounts.

Brenda Brame, manager of United Way’s Kent County Tax Credit Coalition, said the program teaches students about the responsibilities of money and develops financial literacy skills at an early age.

“We are trying to have families become financially stable, and in order to do that, you have to start somewhere,” Brame said. “If I can teach them to save at any early age, hopefully they will continue to do that into adulthood. As the children are saving, the parents are starting to save.”

During the opening of the in-school bank, students who were selected, interviewed and trained to participate in the program will open savings accounts and make their first deposits.

“When they make their deposits, they will receive a Comerica piggy bank, so they can save their change until the next Youth Savings Program day,” Brame said. “It is easier to save when you have a goal in mind, so we have asked them to set a goal, and then they also have financial literacy curriculum that takes place in various classrooms.”

Students can make additional deposits at any Comerica branch when the in-school bank isn’t open. The in-school bank should be open on roughly a monthly basis near the school cafeteria.

Students can only make withdrawals at a Comerica bank location.

Quick implementation

The partnership developed after Brame met with bank representatives to discuss the possibility of developing a Youth Savings Program in the Kentwood area.

“They were excited. We came together to make it happen, and this program at Valleywood came together within the last 45 days,” Brame said.

“This will not be our last one. Everyone is concerned about the well-being of the children and their families. This is about making it happen for our community at large.”

The in-school bank’s opening event will take place in the auditorium at Valleywood Middle School and feature remarks by reps of the partnering organizations: Arminda Westra, principal of Valleywood; Michael Zoerhoff, superintendent of the Kentwood Public Schools; Maureen Noe, president of United Way; and Patti Griswold, SVP of retail banking at Comerica.

School savings programs

Comerica has 15 Youth Savings Programs in place in southeast and West Michigan schools, but Valleywood is the bank’s first program in Kentwood.

The United Way has developed similar in-school bank programs with PNC at schools in Grand Rapids Public Schools, such as Alger Middle School and MLK Leadership Academy.

Tax-credit mission

United Way’s Kent County Tax Credit Coalition provides free income tax return preparation and e-filing assistance for individuals and families.

Since 2002, the coalition has generated roughly $67 million in tax credits for more than 57,000 taxpayers in the community.

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