Life Connected

High School Students Take Part in Union Bank's Student-Run Branch Program

A dozen high schools students in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood are learning to become financially savvy by taking part in Union Bank's student-run branch program.

Lincoln High School senior Priscilla Velez is one of the teens in the program. 

"I not only wanted to improve my financial literacy skills, but I also wanted to improve my communication and professional skills," Velez said. 

Wendy Estrada manages the Lincoln High branch, where every transaction is conducted by trained students, but is overseen by a bank manager. 

"We're hoping by having this student run branch here provided by Union Bank, we're able to educate students to become financially savvy and make wise financial decisions," Estrada said. 

Even though it's student-run, it's a real bank that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., with students taking all the required training a traditional bank teller receives. 

"In the beginning, I'm not going to lie it was really tough because I had to adjust to learning codes and managing money," student banker Carlos Navarrete said. 

Union Bank has five student-run branches in California -- all located in low-income communities. 

"I've seen a lot of situations where students are 18, 19 and they have no idea how to manage an account and they get into difficult situations," Estrada said. 

The student-run branch generated so much interest about financial topics that Lincoln High School started a banking class open to all students. 

The student bankers give presentations on financial literacy to their classmates, which not only educates more of the student body, but also empowers the student presenters. 

"I've seen myself grow a lot over the past few months," Velez said. "I feel a lot more confident, I'm able to communicate with people better." 

It's that growth which makes Estrada proud. She says she sees herself in these students. Growing up nearby as the child of immigrants, Estrada says she can connect to the Lincoln High students on a personal level. 

"It's always great when you have a coach, a mentor, someone who is there to help you, to support you and it gives me great pleasure that I get to be not only a banker but a teacher, a counselor, and a community advocate as well," she said. 

All of the students in the branch program have gone on to college. Union Bank gives them a $1,000 scholarship when they complete the one year program.

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