June 30, 2004 The FirstBank V. I. staff has been talking to elementary school students about practical economics. They are talking to them about the how and why of saving.
And the students are responding.
According to Karen Sprauve, assistant vice president with FirstBank, almost three hundred elementary students opened savings accounts after their schools were visited by FirstBank's Student First program.
Sprauve said that personnel from all different departments paired up and visited every class from second to eighth grade in four elementary schools. The schools were E. Benjamin Oliver and Evelyn Marcelli on St. Thomas; Julius Sprauve on St. John and Pearl Larsen on St. Croix.
The FirstBank pairs spent 45 minutes with each class. Sprauve said, "We wanted to make a close connection with the students. Let them ask the questions they thought were important."
The school visits started last December. Sprauve said the idea came from a staff member who experienced a similar program when in school. This year's program culminated recently when the schools were visited a second time and certificates of achievement were presented to students for cultivating money saving skills during the school year.
A press release from the bank stated, "The goal of the program is to share the principles and concepts of saving and basic banking with all Virgin Islands students as well as to give students an opportunity to have their own savings account. The program will be presented initially to all other public schools in the USVI as scheduling allows and subsequently to private and parochial schools. For the upcoming school year, the goal is to launch the program to at least 10 more schools."
The program starts out with bank representatives giving presentations to students on the importance of saving, what is a savings account and how to save. After the presentations are complete, students have the opportunity to open a savings account with a minimum deposit of $5.
The student who saves the most at each school is awarded a $50 savings bond by the bank.
"It has been quite rewarding to initiate this program to students," said Sprauve. "We are significantly strengthening core financial values in children and their families that will create wise consumers and build wealth."
"Just watching the faces of two of the award recipients as the feeling of accomplishment and pride came over them, made me again realize the true value of this program," said Carmen Holt, senior account relationship officer with FirstBank.
Sprauve added, "Our staff is getting a lot of valuable experience out of this, almost as much as the students."
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