BRADENTON — As his mother helped him open his first savings account, 8-year-old Nicholas Walsh watched bank workers and security guards swarm around him.
“Driver’s license, please,” bank officer and fifth-grade student Colin Smith said to Nicholas’ mother Kerry Walsh, who promptly handed the boy her license.
“Don’t forget to write down the expiration date, too,” Colin quickly added, then slid a bank account application to her.
It was strictly business this week inside Rowlett Elementary’s Bank of America Kid’s Bank at the school on Ninth Street East in Bradenton.
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They’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the bank, which fifth-grade students run themselves. They do the marketing and bookkeeping and take the deposits, with help from their teachers and a few local bank employees. Rowlett Principal Brian Flynn said the bank, which opened in 2001, is designed to give children an opportunity to get a real-world experience.
To get a “job” at the bank, students fill out an application and are interviewed by adult staff members. At the end of the school year, the class is required to complete a business report on the bank.
On Tuesday, student tellers took money from their classmates, many of whom stood in line waiting to open their first checking or savings account like Nicholas. By day’s end, students had opened 17 new accounts to add to the 175 accounts opened by other students in the past few years.
The student customers, who need an adult to open an account, can make deposits 7:50 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. every Tuesday. They can’t withdraw money from kids’ bank because it is designed for money to grow, Flynn said. But students can go to any Bank of America branch with an adult and withdraw or deposit funds.
Outside the school, the bank’s fifth-grade marketing team held up signs in the school’s bus loop. Some read, “Drag out your piggy bank” and “Start counting your pennies.”
Back inside, student teller Enoc Romaro took a $20 bill from a classmate, put it into a cash drawer, then handed the classmate a receipt.
Beside Enoc stood Cathy Johnson, an assistant manager at the downtown Bradenton Bank of America branch. Beside her, Joey Gomez, 10, manned the kids’ bank coupon drop box. Each time a student makes a $20 deposit this year, their name is entered in a drawing to win movie tickets, Joey explained.
Cindy Hall, a private banker with Bank of America, shadowed Colin — the bank officer — as he helped open Nicholas’ account. “Make sure you thank them,” she told Colin as Nicholas and his mother stood up to leave.
“Thank you,” Colin said, then handed Nicholas his account information kit. “And don’t forget, you’ll get a $4 service fee if you don’t deposit in one year.”
“This teaches them the responsibility of having an account and saving money at a young age,” she said.
Over in the bank line a few feet back, 8-year-old Tyler Gates and his mother, Donna Gates, stood in line waiting to make a deposit.
“This is so when you get older, you have money to pay your bills and buy a house,” the second-grade student explained.
His mother smiled, patting her son on the back.