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Durham NC's Hillside High School First To Open A Bank

Hillside Student Bank
Leoneda Inge

Financial literacy is a growing part of the K-through-12 curriculum across the state.  But Hillside High School in Durham has taken the charge to the next level and opened a functioning bank branch at the school.

Organizers say that students, staff, and families will be able to open accounts, as well as deposit funds to checking and savings accounts right at the Hillside branch.  The program also provides internships and serves as a hands-on learning center for students to gain banking skills.

One of the first people to open an account at Hillside’s Student Bank Training Center was New Tech director Tounya Wright.

"I’m just loving this, I’m excited about it, it’s going to be so convenient to be able to have this money here on campus," said White.

There is a staff that's been hired for this branch, there is a manager and service representatives and so they facilitate everything. -Jessica Valentine

The bank is an official branch of Woodforest National Bank, based in Texas, and is a partnership with Hillside's Business and Finance Academy.  Woodforest National is a community bank with more than 80 outlets across North Carolina.  Senior Vice President Jessica Valentine says this is their first time opening a high school branch.

"There’s a staff that’s been hired for this branch, there’s a manager and service representatives and so they facilitate everything," said Valentine.  "And we’re here on a weekly basis sort of providing any follow-up training or questions or things like that. So we’re just supporting the staff that’s here, the kids."

Many students have jobs at the bank. Kiara Lowther is a senior at Hillside and a Loan Officer.  The students trained to work at the bank are a part of the school’s Business and Finance Academy.

"Before I took this class, I used to spend money on fast food and a lot of pointless stuff.  But Ms. Ross showed us how to balance our money and how to save up," said Lowther.

Priscilla Ross heads the Business and Finance Academy.

"Well, hopefully this will generate some more interest in students wanting to learn more about the Finance Academy, especially those students who are going to be accountants are thinking about going into anything finance," said Ross. "They definitely would want to come to Hillside high School."

State Treasurer Janet Cowell was on hand to officially open the bank.  She deposited $500 from the state’s Unclaimed Property fund.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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