Students at Lincoln High School interested in careers in banking received a jump start as the Los Angeles Unified School Board announced that Union Bank will open student-run branches on two Los Angeles high school campuses. The Lincoln High branch along with a second branch at Crenshaw High School, are modeled after the first student-run branch at McLane High School in Fresno that opened in 2011.
The two branches will offer all the same services as a traditional branch with selected high school students serving as tellers under bank employee supervision. The bank plans to enroll 12 students in a specialized course designed by school faculty to teach real-world financial education. “Our intent is to directly touch the lives of students,” said Union Bank Vice President Jane Woolsey. “And through them provide financial education to their peers.”
The bank received the green light from the school board on August 1 and is now working with campus faculty to develop the curriculum and applications. Woolsey said ideally the branches will open for the spring 2014 semester but acknowledged that it is possible that the opening date could be in fall 2014. So far, Lincoln High School is slightly ahead of schedule as a physical location on campus has already been identified for the branch.
The bank will also establish a Parents Academy at each school to offer parents and guardians of students financial education in English and Spanish. The bank will offer traditional banking products and services to students, school staff and faculty. Woolsey said that no credit services will be marketed to students, though they will provide student checking and savings account that do require parent authorization to create.
Lincoln High School received the branch because Leticia Aguilar, Union Bank Executive Vice President and Regional Executive, is a Lincoln alumnus. Aguilar, who manages the bank’s branches in the Los Angeles and Central California divisions, said in a press release that it is vital to increase financial awareness in our youth to build and sustain communities for the future. “We’ve seen tremendous talent and success from the students in our student-run branch in Fresno and our goal is to replicate that in Los Angeles,” Aguilar said.
The National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan released a study in 2008 that showed low-income families would benefit most from banks that offered financial education on short-term income fluctuations. The study also showed that check cashing companies, pawn shops and payday lenders are able to charge high fees because they more convenient and accessible than traditional banks.
Woolsey said that Union Bank has made it their practice to think of the communities in which they operate. She said it is important for residents to view them as a responsible bank that is not involved in predatory lending and did not receive TARP funds during the bank bailouts in 2009.
For students at Lincoln, this partnership provides financial education and job training. The students will be fully trained to provide basic bank services and receive compensation as well. Upon graduation, the students will have priority for employment should they apply. Woolsey said the students will receive a financial stipend during the training and graduates will also receive a scholarship.