Published Online: February 16, 2000
Published in Print: February 16, 2000, as Take Note

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Bank shot

Some adults may see teenagers as reckless with their money, but one bank in Dickinson, N.D., decided to venture into the halls of a local high school and help students set up a fully functional bank.

In September 1994, Community First Bank approached administrators at the 1,000-student Dickinson High School with the idea of creating an autonomous bank that would teach students principles of banking, business, and marketing.

The idea has been a success, according to Elsie Reichert, the teacher who heads up the program. One-semester banking classes range in size from 12 to 14 students—all of whom serve on the board of directors and take turns working as tellers. Some students who completed the program have chosen to pursue banking as a career, Ms. Reichert said.

Students and faculty members can open savings accounts with balances of up to $500, cash checks, and take out loans of up to $200. To qualify for the loans, which have competitive interest rates, students must fill out a credit application, prove they have some form of income, and get their parents to co-sign, according to DuWayne Schwindt, the vice president of Community First Bank.


Community First acts as an adviser to what is called Student Bank, Mr. Schwindt said. The advice seems to be paying off: The bank started out with $500 in capital, provided by Community First, and now has roughly $10,000 in deposits. "I attribute that to the marketing committee," Mr. Schwindt said.

When the bank first opened, state law did not allow student groups to have deposits at any bank other than the State Bank of North Dakota.

So the students in the banking class joined forces with a democracy class also offered at the school and lobbied to change the law.

They succeeded, and were at the Statehouse when the bill was signed.

"It's quite a program," Mr. Schwindt said.

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 19, Issue 23, Page 3

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