Student bank gives real-life lessons

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / March 29, 2000

RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish has a brand new bank. Its generalmanager is only 14 years old.

Thursday, the Leon Godchaux National Bank officially opened in the Leon Godchaux Junior High School library. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremonyattended by the eighth-grade class, the principal and officials of the Cargill Grain Elevator, major sponsors of the new bank.

Lyle Gray Jr., branch manager of the bank, was very pleased with theopening.

“We worked and trained hard for three months to get this open,” Gray said.

Judging by the enthusiasm of the eighth-graders lining up at the tellers’ windows to deposit their checks, it looked like the first day of business for Leon Godchaux National Bank was a huge success.

The idea for a student-run bank is the brainchild of social studies teacher Kelli Winzer. She wanted to start a program to teach her students what reallife is like outside of school.

Three years ago, while teaching in a re-direction school, she came up with the idea of the bank.

“This is my third year doing this, and it has been a great success,” Winzer said.

But the whole lesson goes way beyond just opening up a checking account in a bank – a lot farther.

“We wanted to set up a situation that was a real as possible,” said Winzer.

Each eighth-grader was told to find a job. They all had to go through jobinterviews and compete for the positions, then they were “paid” with checks from the Real Life Inc. company. The checks are deposited in the bank.The real life lesson doesn’t stop there.

Students are assigned to either houses or apartments, and they have to make mortgage payments to the bank and pay rent to landlords. There iseven a loan department, and students wishing to buy cars or houses have to borrow money from the bank. The students will also have regular bills, justlike their parents.

Bank loan officer Jonathan Jacob said they are still trying to decide on the lending rate for the bank.

Leon Godchaux Junior High Principal Grady Hall is very enthusiastic about the program.

“It will teach the kids what adults do every day,” Hall said, “It will teach them how to handle money and how to save.”This experiment in real-life is sponsored by Cargill.

Donnie Love, a spokesman for Cargill, said Winzer approached the company last fall with the idea of the bank.

“We think it is a very worthwhile idea,” said Love. “It is all about teachingthese kids about real life.”Winzer said the Cargill people have been very generous with their support.

“They donated everything,” said Winzer. “They gave me a check and told meto go out and get what I needed.”Winzer said Cargill also had employees donate a lot of time to teach the students how to run a bank. She said she especially wants to thank MikeSwearengen, Rashaad Hart and Alvin George for volunteering their time to the project.

“They were just great,” said Winzer.

The eighth-graders have to really work at their “jobs.” This reporter wasinterviewed by a reporter from the school’s local television station, Jenna Mitchell. Mitchell was told by her news director to get a story out of theopening for their newscast next week.

Shantelle Cushenberry is a lawyer, and she already has two cases, one a divorce and the other a property damage lawsuit.

Other positions filled by students are bank tellers, insurance sales people, production managers, data entry clerks, mail clerks, bank file managers billing account managers, news anchors and bill collectors.

But as in real life there are those who are never satisfied with their jobs.

File manager Katie Tymon complained, “I don’t make enough money.”Students are also docked a day of pay if they miss a day of school.

“Not only does this teach them responsibility on the job,” said Winzer, “but it also encourages the kids to come to school every day.”Students are also encouraged to buy life insurance and save for vacations, children’s educations and their own retirement. The bank has officers to helpstudents with all of these financial burdens.

Local adults are lending their experience and training to the program. Graysaid he and his bank employees will go to several area banks to be trained in managing a financial institution.

Patrick Millet, who is a judge, said he will spend a day with District Judge Madeline Jasmin, who will instruct him in overseeing criminal and civil trials.

Students will each have their own mailbox, and the post office will be run by Postmaster Terrell Joseph.

At the end of the school year the student with the most money left in his or her bank account will be given a prize by Hall.

In April, Winzer will continue her real-life lessons by staging a mock wedding between two of the students. They will be faced with the everyday problemsof being a married couple in the real world.

And who knows? Maybe after this the students at Leon Godchaux Junior High will understand what their parents have to go through every day.

Return To News Stories