Maine bank reaches out to high school to teach financial literacy

Financial EducationAs financial institutions around the country expand their financial education efforts, one Maine bank has reached out to members of a local high school’s business club to help them teach financial literacy to elementary and middle school students.

Erskine Academy, an independent high school located in South China, Maine, just outside the city of Augusta, serves approximately 700 domestic and international students.

The school offers over 175 different courses, including an elective class in financial literacy, but Halda Stout, the school’s guidance and alumni activities coordinator, said electives often take a backseat behind classes required to graduate.

“When the choice comes down to taking physics or financial literacy, financial literacy loses every time,” Stout said in a recent issue of Maine Banker, pointing to an issue that has emerged in recent years as a nationwide problem that financial institutions have sought to address through outreach efforts.

Last year, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust opened an office in the South China market, and bank Vice President Margie Gray contacted Stout about bringing financial literacy to local students.

Together they came up with a plan to involve students in financial education in a more interactive way: train high school students to teach younger students financial skills and have the student trainers accompany bank representatives to area schools to assist with lessons.

Stout brought the plan to Roxanne Malley, Erskine’s business club advisor, and she pitched the idea to business club students, 11 of which signed up for the program.

The high school students were taught using a sample third-grade and sixth-grade lesson from the American Bankers Association’s Teach Children to Save curriculum used by the bank.

Gray and Stout assigned the trained students to different schools and planned visits around free periods or special partnerships with the schools.

“A few went out three or four times, and probably could have run the program by themselves by the time they were done,” Gray said. “Some had attended the schools where they went to assist, and it was fun to see how warmly they were welcomed by their old teachers and the younger kids they knew.”

The success of the program—the number of students reached rose to 800 this year, compared with 300 last year—led the bank to set up another round of the program in March, and it is currently considering applying the same principles to another high school in the area.

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