Starting next month Alcoa High School students can do more than grab a snack or T-shirt at the school store. They’ll be able to make deposits and cash checks at a CBBC Bank branch run by students.

Friday afternoon, eight AHS students interviewed for teller positions with Susan Zerambo, the bank’s director of human resources. A public ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.

On Mondays and Fridays, the CBBC branch will be open to students and staff before school and during lunch inside the Marsh Store, just off the Commons area where students eat.

Bank basics

Discussions about having a bank branch date back to before the new school opened in 2015, according to Joy Gornto, who teaches marketing at AHS and leads the school’s DECA club.

Last year a student brought to one of Gornto’s marketing classes as a guest speaker Laura Lenear, vice president and marketing director at CBBC Bank, which had recently opened its first school branch at Coulter Grove Intermediate.

With Gornto also teaching personal finance this year, she said, it seemed like the perfect time to make an AHS bank a reality.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity for students to get even more cash-handling skills,” Gornto said, “and the opportunity to put into action what they’re learning in class.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to partner with CBBC,” she said.

Students who want to work in the bank completed an application and had to provide a teacher reference other than Gornto.

Ben Coulter, one of Friday’s applicants, already has his eye on a career as a financial adviser or stock broker.

His grandfather cofounded the Knoxville accounting and consulting firm Coulter and Justus, and Ben said, “he taught me a whole lot about finance.

“I really love the concept of your money working for you,” said the high school senior, who has been investing since he was 14.

“Warren Buffett kind of said it best, ‘if you don’t get your money to work for you, you will work until you die,’” Ben said. With a bank at the school, he said, more teens may develop the savings habit.

Ben recognizes that in addition to learning more about the financial world, working in the bank could help with college applications and networking in his chosen field.

Courtney Wolfenbarger, another senior applicant, has been working at the school store since she was a freshman, so she has experience handling cash and inventory but hopes to broaden her skills.

Sara Grace Travis, another senior, works as a restaurant hostess, middle school math tutor and church nursery worker, plus during the football season she’ll be working at Neyland Stadium Skyboxes.

“I thought doing something during school would be beneficial, too,” she said. “I can learn a lot with money management and how to save money.”

According to a survey by Raddon Research, nationwide more than two-thirds of Generation Z has a bank account, but only 12% use a community bank.

“We are committed to the development of financial literacy in our community,” CBBC Bank President and CEO Mike Baker said in a statement. “We want to help ensure that young people have the knowledge to make good financial decisions once they enter the workforce. And, as a local community bank, we realize these students are our future customers.”

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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