Learning to manage money and save for college may not be on every teenager’s mind. One North Texas classroom is trying to change that. Dallas’ Conrad High School has just opened a student-run bank.
At the Bank of Conrad, students dressed in button-down black shirts and dark pants greet you when you walk through the door.
“Hello, welcome to Conrad Bank.”
Smooth jazz plays over the intercom as a young man asks you to sign in.
The students are in the school’s Finance Academy. Classes in this program include money matters, banking, accounting and financial analysis. Right now, the bank is open mornings and only accepts Conrad cash, the school’s in-house currency.
“We like to have lab environment for students in every academy to mimic what it would be like in an actual position doing what we do in class,” says teacher Euladia Gilbert.
The bank opened a couple of weeks ago. BANK is spelled in big red letters outside what was once storage space. Inside, there are desks and chairs, a sign-in stand and a waiting area, just like a real bank.
Teachers hand out “Conrad cash” to students who have done well on an assignment or met a goal. And they use that cash to buy snacks or other items at the school store.
“One of our goals is to make the cash on campus worth a little bit more money, have more value to it,” Gilbert says. “And also offer incentives as far as earning interest.”
Gilbert says she’s been reminding teachers to reward students, so they’ll visit the bank. Tenth-grader Isaias Huesa, one of the bankers, says the experience has taught him some valuable lessons.
“The thing that I’m learning in this class is that it helped me like a real job – how to be responsible with my stuff and how do I have a good credit and how do I deposit, help other people know what it is a deposit, teach them what it mean [to] like save money in your account.”
One of Huesa’s jobs is to enter information about newly-opened accounts and money being deposited or withdrawn. He came from Havana four years ago. He says he wants to study finance when he graduates because both of his parents are in the field.
Eleventh-grader Aliera Dean says she’s also interested in banking. Her role at Conrad is to set up new accounts.
“From this experience, I’m getting [to know] how to conduct myself and how to actually run in a bank because when I get older, I want to become an accountant, so I probably would be working in the bank and how stuff is like run, and this is like a pre-step to what I want to do,” Dean says.
She’ll be a good customer, too.
“I know how to write a check and I know how to like make sure my balances are equal and make sure I’m not losing any money,” Dean says. “It’s pretty good.”
For now, the Bank of Conrad is all pretend. But teacher Euladia Gilbert says one day it could actually be a real bank. Conrad High School is located in the ethnically diverse neighborhood Vickery Meadow. Many refugees live here and some frequently don’t have transportation.
“This would serve as a place where they could actually do their banking,” Gilbert says. “It would give them an opportunity to walk if need be to a place down the street and actually take care of their banking needs.”
Before any of this happens, Gilbert has a lot of logistical issues to sort out, which hasn’t kept her from talking to several real banks about doing business.