The Hutchinson News (Kansas)
By: Kevin Hardy
October 16, 2010
It may be a business just for kids, but the Prosperity Savings Branch got the royal treatment Friday morning.
The for-kids, by-kids business was officially opened with a ceremony and ribbon-cutting. Principal Randy Doerksen explained to the students gathered at an all-school assembly that ribbon-cuttings are standard fare at local business openings.
And just as business grand openings include chamber officials and other leaders, the elementary school's ceremony included the school district officials, school board members and business leaders.
"You know what I'm thinking right now?" he said. "This is pretty cool."
Prosperity Elementary School, 4601 N. Plum, was one of the first area schools to participate in the State Treasurer's Save @ School program. The treasurer's office teams up with local schools and credit unions or banks to make savings accounts available at elementary schools. The accounts have low minimum deposits -- students can open an account for as little as $5 and make following deposits with as little as 50 cents.
Hutchinson Credit Union will pay interest at the current market rate.
"We don't want to set up unrealistic expectations of what they can earn just because this is a special program," said Kristi Nuest, electronic funds transfer manager at the credit union.
Once the ribbon was cut, students started making their first deposits. A couple dozen sixth-graders are charged with operating the in-school branch. They work the counter, count cash and keep records. To obtain employment, the students had to complete a job application, which, among other criteria, took into account neatness and spelling.
Though students will manage the school branch, all transactions will be double-checked by credit union employees, Nuest said. And a credit union staff member will stay on site during all branch operations.
Prosperity will run its branch Friday mornings from 7:45 to about 8:10 a.m. At school, students can only make deposits. For withdrawals or other services, they'll have to visit a Hutchinson Credit Union branch.
In its opening day, the school branch brought in more than $900 from about 12 students making deposits. Neust said several students unexpectedly deposited large amounts.
"That's pretty impressive," she said. "We had more kids that made deposits than we were expecting. I really wasn't expecting the bigger ones."
Fifth-grader Brenton Cooke opened a new account with a $10 deposit. He already has one savings account but thought it would be wise to open another. He said he recognizes the importance of saving early.
"Saving isn't really just to buy things you want," he said. "It's for things you need. And it's not always easy."
Michelle Kaberline, financial literacy coordinator at the state treasurer's office, said the program is about more than just teaching savings habits. Local financial institutions are armed with a financial curriculum that can be taught in the schools. Credit unions can teach courses on the origins of money, the trade and barter system and the minting and printing of money.
"They watch their money grow as they learn about it," Kaberline said.
The Save @ School curriculum meets fourth-grade state standards for math and social studies.
Kansas students have already saved more than $2 million through the program. But more important than the actual amounts they've saved, Kaberline said, the program will teach students lifelong savings skills.
"The better citizens handle their personal finances," she said, "the better our community overall."
FYI For more information on the Save @ School program, visit the Kansas State Treasurer's website at www.kansascash.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org