The partnership between Horizon Bank and Michigan City High School, that got off the ground in 2013, led to the opening of the Wolves Branch in the high school in early 2014 and has had an increasingly positive impact on both current and former students who have worked at the branch. The skills they learn are invaluable tools that will help them succeed throughout their lives.
“What a great community partner that Horizon has always been!,” said Phyllis Stark, (Ret.) Business Department Chair and Educator at Michigan City High School. “Financial literacy, nationwide, is huge, and anytime you can start when they’re young it can make a world of difference to them down the road, and, obviously, the bank (Horizon) recognizes that.”
The idea was proposed, and the dialogue started between Horizon Bank and Michigan City Schools in 2013 with the branch ultimately opening up in January 2014. The Horizon Bank ‘Wolves Branch’ employs six students every year, and the students are required to apply with a resume, which gives them the valuable experience of learning and working to build a good resume.
The MCHS Business Department does the first round of interviews, and potential candidates are directed to Horizon Bank’s website where they then apply and submit their resume with the bank.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk with the kids and ask them some of the interview questions that possibly will come up,” said Stark of the interview process that the students are exposed to. “It’s a nerve wracking process, and it’s all about selling yourself, and your assets.”
Everything then gets turned over to Horizon, and after their interviews are conducted they pick six students who will work at the Wolves Branch for the entire school year. The branch is open during lunch hours with two students working during each of the three lunch periods. The branch is also open for 30 minutes before school during which those six employees will work on a rotation.
“Horizon Bank does all of the training, and the students can work during the summer and on Saturdays at other locations,” Stark said. “This is a skill that you will take with you, and there are other areas of the bank other than the teller. The teller is what gets your foot in the door. You can go into finance, trust, or commercial loans, but this is the thing that will open that door for you.”
“It’s been a great partnership. The students do everything, and this branch does everything that a normal branch can do as a teller. Horizon Bank does a great job in helping educate also, and what we do in the classroom is just a reinforcement out there.”
The whole experience of learning about banking, getting an account and a debit card is geared towards educating students to be financially literate, and the skills that students gain through their work will have a big impact on their future.
Julia Harris, Supervising Manager for Horizon Bank’s Wolves Branch, spoke about some of the things students learn and get to do at the branch.
“We open accounts for students here,” said Harris. “We help them with any accounting issues that they may have and try to teach them how to work an account whether it’s checking or savings. We supervise the tellers (students) and familiarize them with standard, basic transactions that we would do at the branch. The nice thing about that is that, during the summer, if they want to work at another branch they can because they’ve been trained all throughout the school year.”
Along with actually earning money, working at the Wolves Branch all year long gives students the ability to potentially find employment through their experience and the skills that they acquire throughout the school year.
MCHS Senior, Emma Zaknoun, is in her second year working at the Horizon Bank ‘Wolves Branch.’
“I didn’t know much about banking, so when my counselor asked me if I was interested, I thought it would be good to have that experience under my belt,” Zaknoun said. “This coming summer I definitely want to do more and work more at a bigger branch.”
“I learned a lot about having your accounts like savings and checking,” said Zaknoun of some of the skills she’s acquired. “I learned about theft and keeping yourself safe financially as well as about all of the different transactions, cashing checks and being a teller. I know there’s a lot more to it. I’ve went twice to a bigger branch, and just watching them do all the different things I thought it would be nice to do more.”