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With a Bank at School, Saving Catches Students' Interest

By Liz Skalski
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lake Arbor Elementary School fifth-grader Khalifa Ndir, 10, of Bowie eagerly waited to open his first bank account at the Mitchellville school with a $5 deposit, standing with other students clutching their bank applications and cash.

"I think it's going to be fun watching the money grow," he said. "I'm saving up for something; when the time comes, I will know" what that is.

On Sept. 23, Lake Arbor celebrated the grand opening of the school's student credit union, part of a Prince George's County public schools program to give students experience with financial management.

Students tore through a "grand opening" sign in front of the school's media center and filed in to submit savings account applications and deposit real money, many for the first time.

Lake Arbor is among eight county schools using the program by Greenbelt-based Educational Systems Federal Credit Union, which allows students to open savings accounts and make deposits.

"It helps our children learn about the value of a dollar," Principal Stephen Green said. "It teaches them the power of saving money as opposed to spending it. They can watch their money accumulate."

Parents were given information about the program before the grand opening.

Green said he learned about the program during the summer through a partnership the school has with the credit union and decided it would be a positive initiative for his students. It's a program he hopes to continue every year.

Green said that when Lake Arbor opened eight years ago, it had a similar partnership with Bank of America, which lasted only a year because the parent volunteer's grandson graduated from the school.

Julio Martinez, a school financial education coordinator for the credit union, said that 23 students opened savings accounts Sept. 23 and that he was pleased with the turnout. Martinez will go to Lake Arbor every two weeks to collect student deposits.

Savings accounts require a minimum deposit and minimum balance of $5, and the interest rate recently was 0.15 percent, said Mary Harris, a credit union spokeswoman.

Fifth-grader Shayla Morton was thrilled to open and deposit $10 into her first savings account.

"You need to save money and stop just buying anything," said Shayla, 9, of Mitchellville.

Fifth-grader Janae Johnson, 10, deposited $31 and is saving up for shoes and toys.

Students "will learn to save and what's the value of a dollar," Janae said.

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