Teaching financial literacy the primary goal of Community Spirit Bank’s Tiger Branch
After months of construction and preparation, the Tiger Branch is officially open on the campus of Red Bay High School.
The Tiger Branch is a student-led financial literacy center that will allow RBHS students and faculty to carry out banking transactions and learn more about banking in everyday life.
The Tiger Branch is open to all grades, elementary through high school, but will not be open to the general public. A ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening ceremony was held Tuesday, January 17 to officially launch the branch.
“On behalf of the officers, directors, and employees of Community Spirit Bank, we are excited to add this location where students can lead and demonstrate the same ‘community spirit’ of their Tiger Branch, as we attempt to provide each day,” said Community Spirit Bank President/CEO Brad M. Bolton.
The plans for implementing a student-led bank first began in late 2015. Scott Wiginton, Director of the Franklin County Career Tech Center, reached out to Red Bay High School Principal, Kenny Sparks, and then Sparks reached out to Community Spirit Bank and the reality of the Tiger Branch began to take shape. Wiginton has been working countywide to promote financial literacy and on-the-job experience for the students of Franklin County.
The process that began next was something that took several months to complete.
“We really wanted to take the time to research other bank/school partnerships across Alabama and see what was successful” said Emily Mays, Community Spirit Bank Marketing Director. “We evaluated just a counter or smaller operation, but after visiting another in-school branch, we felt Red Bay should have something we could all be proud of. This led to further discussions with school officials and the Board of Education working toward a partnership to close in the breezeway area of the school. While we were already on site for the construction, this was a prime opportunity to give better security to the school in general.”
Mays also said that all aspects of the student branch are paid from leasehold improvements the bank will make on campus. Some have asked about the enclosure in regard to parking on the west side of the school on home football game weekends. The school has purchased some additional doors that can be closed in order to block entrance into the school, while still allowing people to utilize the doors in the new breezeway construction to go between the junior high and high school buildings. If the administration chooses to do so, the breezeway can remain open while access into the school is closed.
Upon receiving approval from the Community Spirit Bank Board of Directors and the regulators at the State of Alabama and FDIC, groundbreaking for the Tiger Branch was ready to begin. The original plan was for construction of the bank to begin during the summer months, but there were factors that prevented this from happening.
“We disliked having to have the students displaced for a few weeks at the beginning of construction, but McNeil Construction did a great job of causing as little disruption as possible for the staff and students,” Mays said. “We thank them for their patience and think all would agree the improvements made were a great asset for the school campus.”
The Tiger Branch will operate from 9:40 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. each school day. The time will include the students’ break time and also make it available to elementary students as they begin their lunch rotations.
“We are looking forward to other opportunities and times to utilize the branch for class visits, financial education sessions and more,” Mays said. “We will also be working with teachers to accommodate their schedules and take full advantage of the new facility.”
The Tiger Branch is a student-led bank, which means RBHS students were given the opportunity to interview for positions to work at the branch.
“The Tiger Tellers were chosen from a group of students referred to us by the school,” Mays said. “If interested in the position, they had to submit a resume to the bank by a certain deadline. After interviewing 18 students, 10 students were selected.”
Logan Brooks, Colton Corum, Abbey Jones, Krista Lindsay, Abby Montgomery, Emma Russell, Brooke Shewbart, Gath Weatherford, Anna Wilemon, and Matthew Williams are the Tiger Tellers and will be led by Sarah Hardin, Business teacher at RBHS.
“I am really excited to get to work at the Tiger Branch,” said Anna Wilemon. “I feel like it’s a great addition to the school and that it will be very helpful to everyone. It is going to be be fun to help the kids, teenagers, and teachers.”
Two tellers will be assigned to work each day, giving the tellers the opportunity to work one day a week. Most of the students will have business class during the time they will be working. The students will not be paid, but will receive volunteer hours to add to their college resumes.
“Community Spirit Bank is a 108-year-old financial institution and has a long history of investing back to the communities we serve,” Bolton said. “Our mission as a community financial institution is to develop and serve our communities, customers, and employees with a caring attitude offering stability, integrity and fairness.”
The students and faculty of RBHS are excited to begin this new endeavor on campus. The hard work put in by so many will benefit students for years to come.
“We thank all those involved,” Bolton said, “the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Wiginton, Mr. Sparks, former principal Jeff Madden, the school board members and Mike Shewbart for the cooperation and appreciation of our investment. Also, Shane McNeil, of McNeil construction and his staff for all their hard work in making this branch a reality. And thanks to our own Mike Montgomery, who oversaw the construction process on behalf of the bank, Emily Mays for overall project management and Charri Lindsay for teller operation implementation.”