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Community Spirit Bank opens Tiger Branch at RBHS

With a grand opening Tuesday, Red Bay High School became the latest school to offer a bank branch on campus.

“We began researching the possibility of the student-led branch in late 2015,” explained Community Spirit Bank marketing director Emily Mays. “Mr. Sparks, principal at RBHS, approached us about the opportunity after Scott Wiginton, director of the Franklin County Career Tech Center, had reached out to him.”

Mays said Wiginton had been working countywide to promote financial literacy and on-the-job experience for students. Financial literacy is also a topic of importance for the bank – “We believe helping our next generation become financially educated while they are young will benefit them their entire life,” Mays said. So with the idea on the table, Community Spirit Bank began the process of researching and planning how the student-led branch would operate.

“We evaluated just a counter or smaller operation, but after visiting another in-school branch, we felt Red Bay should have something we could all be proud of,” Mays said. “Our biggest challenge was the process required to establish the branch. Regulators at the state and FDIC had to concur with the establishment of the branch. Since this is not a true branch of the Bank, but rather one that is for financial literacy of the students, it didn’t have as much ‘red tape’ but still had to have their concurrence. So we did have some delay while we were waiting for that. After receiving approval from regulators at the State of Alabama and FDIC, as well as our Board of Directors, we were ready to start breaking ground.”

Establishing the bank required closing in a breezeway at the school, and Mays said discussions were ongoing for some time over the logistics of make the space both safe and functional.

“We would have loved to have done the work over the summer, but things just didn’t fall into place,” Mays said. “We disliked having to have the students displaced for a few weeks at the beginning of construction, but McNeil Construction did a great job of causing as little disruption as possible for the staff and students. We thank them for their patience and think all would agree the improvements made were a great asset for the school campus.”

The construction, Mays said, represents “a significant financial investment on behalf of the bank that will aid the school, its staff and students for generations to come. We are grateful to the Franklin County Schools superintendent, school board and Red Bay school administration for giving us the opportunity.”

Red Bay students will now have exposure to banking on a daily basis. “It will provide real-life teaching experience for them to learn more about banking and finance and give ‘hands on’ financial literacy interaction,” Mays said. “Traditional banking products will be available to Red Bay students and teachers only, as the Tiger Branch will not be open to the general public. Students will be able to open checking and savings accounts, and we’ve got some fun new account options available to help them get started. Once they have their account set up, they will be able to make deposits, transfer money between their accounts, cash checks and make withdrawals, of a limited amount.”

The branch will operate 9:40-10:30 a.m. each school day, most of which falls during the student break time. The “banking hours” will run over into the next class period but, for most of the student tellers, that class is a business course, allowing them a type of lab for their classwork,” Mays said.

“The student tellers, or Tiger Tellers as we call them, were chosen from a group of students referred to us by the school,” Mays explained. “If interested in the position, they had to submit a resume to the bank by a certain deadline. This process provided the students the opportunity to know what it is like to apply and interview for a job.” After interviewing 18 students, ten students were selected: Logan Brooks, Colton Corum, Abbey Jones, Krista Lindsay, Abby Montgomery, Emma Russell, Brooke Shewbart, Gath Weatherford, Anna Wilemon and Matthew Williams. Business education teacher Sarah Hardin will facilitate the branch and oversee the Tiger Tellers.

Mays said two tellers will be assigned to work each day, giving the tellers the opportunity to work one day a week.

And these student tellers aren’t coming in blind.

“The Tiger Tellers came to CSB main office for a week in December of intense training two hours each day,” Mays said. “It included details of how the Tiger Branch will operate, policies and procedures that must be followed and included practice scenarios. The hands-on scenarios gave the students a chance to demonstrate what they had learned, as well as gave them practice creating tickets, posting to daily journals and balancing their cash drawers to their journals at the end of each day. These are great skills that will help them in their careers and also in their own personal finances.”

Tuesday’s official grand opening brought together the school as well as CSB representatives to open Tiger Branch’s doors for business.

“Community Spirit Bank is a 108-year-old financial institution and has a long history of investing back to the communities in which we serve,” said CSB President/CEO Brad Bolton. “Our mission as a community financial institution is to develop and serve our communities, customers and employees with a caring attitude offering stability, integrity and fairness. On behalf of the officers, directors and employees of Community Spirit Bank, we are excited to add this location where students can lead and demonstrate the same ‘community spirit’ of their Tiger Branch as we attempt to provide each day.”

Bolton added his thanks to all who helped make this new opportunity a reality, with special mention of Wiginton, Principal Kenny Sparks, former principal Jeff Madden, Mike Shewbart, Shane McNeil and staff, the FCBOE and CSB’s Mike Montgomery, Mays and Charri Lindsay.

Community Spirit Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC.