In September 2000, Wilson Bank & Trust established a pilot program to help school-age youth learn the value and importance of saving money. The program, conducted at Sam Houston Elementary School in Lebanon, offered a unique opportunity for students to deposit money into their personal savings accounts right at school, and it quickly earned the praise of the young participants, their parents, grandparents and the school staff.
In the next few years, the success of the School Bank program led to rapid expansion throughout public and private schools across Wilson County, and then to outlying areas served by Wilson Bank & Trust.
Participating students are currently near the $2 million mark in combined savings, and students at more than 50 schools in seven Middle Tennessee counties have the opportunity add to their savings accounts every few weeks as community bankers visit their schools.
At the same time, young savers earn prizes for consistent saving and learn the basics about how a bank operates. Wilson Bank & Trust also makes it easy for families to remember bank days with free email and text message reminders to parents.
Wilson Bank & Trust partners with schools and school systems to provide the special service for students in our communities. More than that, it plays a part in teaching young people to save and learn financial responsibility.
The three divisions of the School Bank program includes:
• School Bank, which helps children develop good financial habits that can last a lifetime, while they also begin saving money and learn the basics of banking. Bank employees visit schools every few weeks, usually before classes begin, to accept deposits and open accounts. Students who participate open a real savings account with the bank. Students receive small prizes for every deposit, and larger rewards for saving consistently during an entire school year. There are no minimum balance or deposit amounts. Parents receive free text or email reminders before each bank day. Currently, 58 elementary schools and preschools participated in the fall.
• Campus Prep is a savings account that has additional features to help middle school students develop more financial responsibility, with parent’s supervision. An ATM card is available, if parents desire, with joint ownership with a parent. There’s also online banking access that starts at 13 years old. It offers the same high-interest rate as the children’s savings account. Bank employees visit schools once a month to accept deposits and open accounts. Students receive fast-food coupons with each deposit, thanks to local partnerships with Chick-Fil-A, Sonic, McDonald’s and Hardee’s. Students earn rewards at mid-year and the end of the school year for monthly participation of at least one deposit at school and one deposit at a bank. The program began last year at five schools in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Smithville, and nine total schools are participating this fall, including two in Murfreesboro.
• High school programs include the Wilson Bank & Trust Financial Scholars Program. It’s a bank-sponsored personal finance curriculum, administered by a teacher. Students receive a campus checking bonus for completing the program. Eight schools joined the program in the fall with student-operated banks. Wilson Bank & Trust also sponsors programs at Oakland High School and Gallatin High School.