Belmont Elementary students learn banking at school

(From left to right) Student tellers Na Kaila Shafer, Sebastien Coulter, Tsai Ling Lee and Abbie Francisco help other Belmont Elementary students deposit money into their savings accounts.

(From left to right) Student tellers Na Kaila Shafer, Sebastien Coulter, Tsai Ling Lee and Abbie Francisco help other Belmont Elementary students deposit money into their savings accounts.

By Lindsey Berning, NewsNetNebraska

Thursday marked the opening day of the Belmont Elementary School branch of Liberty First Credit Union.

But this branch isn’t run by grownups.

Every Thursday, a group of fourth and fifth graders will operate the student bank as tellers from 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. All third through fifth graders have the chance to open a Liberty First savings account and deposit money with a parent’s permission.

Belmont Coordinator Matt Oltman said second graders will be able to participate next fall. And eventually first graders will have a chance as well.

“I thought it’d be a good privilege and a fun opportunity that would be very informing,” Abbie Francisco, a fourth grade teller, said. “I think it will help me in the future.”

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Economics Education partners with various elementary schools and banks across Lincoln and Omaha. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, other participating schools in Lincoln include Clinton Elementary with US Bank, Hartley Elementary and Huntington Elementary with Liberty First, and Elliot Elementary with People’s Choice Credit Union.

“It’s in a lot of the lower socio-economic schools from what I’ve noticed,” Oltman said. “I think it’s just giving the kids the opportunity, if they’re not banking already, to have an actual bank account. And it kind of prepares them and teaches them how to save.”

The first time a student makes a deposit, Liberty First will match their amount up to $5 dollars. There is also a set of incentives where students can earn prizes for the amount of money in their savings account. Some examples of these prizes include a pencil with $5 in the account, a pencil pouch with $10 and a Yo Yo with $40.

The economics of a savings plan are also being taught in Belmont classrooms. Teachers will help students understand savings plans by asking students what they want to save for.

“A lot of them would say they’re saving for college, or saving for some sort of electronic game,” Oltman said. “Something that they’re excited for.”

Liberty First keeps the student’s money until they graduate from the fifth grade or transfer to a different school. No withdrawals can be made.

Each of the 20 total tellers were nominated by a teacher. The nominees had to go through an application and interview process. Then they went through six training sessions with Liberty First employees to prepare for the job.

“It’s harder than I thought — you have to be really fast,” Abbie said. “But it’s more fun than a math class.”

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