First-grade students learn about banking

Andie Balenger | Daily Press Students watch as money gets counted in the teller department. Upper Peninsula State Bank hosted 120 first-graders from Gladstone Area Schools Monday, introducing them to the influence and importance of banking in their lives.

ESCANABA — First-graders from Gladstone Area Schools flooded into Upper Peninsula State Bank early Monday morning for their annual tour of the local bank. U.P. State Bank, located at 420 N. Lincoln Rd. in Escanaba, has been welcoming eager students to visit for well over eight years. However, the bank had to cancel the event for the past two years due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Our bank really loves getting active in the community,” Kathryn Bianga, member of marketing and human resources at U.P. State Bank, said. “This is something we have been doing for a long time, welcoming students into our building, so we are excited to get back to it.”

Ushered in one bus at a time, a total of 120 students from Gladstone were given a presentation on the various departments and day-to-day banking operations that are taking place at U.P. State Bank. This field trip marks the first time that many of the students have interacted with a bank, so the information they were given stayed primarily at the surface level.

“We are hoping that the kids just learn a little bit more about banking in general,” Bianga said. “Many of these kids are six or seven years old, so we just want to introduce them to the concept of a bank and show them the cool and fun parts of banking.”

Once split into three groups, the students followed their employee guides through the various sections of the bank. Bianga’s group was first introduced to the bank tellers, where they learned how to personally operate a coin counting machine. Students were also given a demonstration on the pneumatic tube system that assists tellers when interacting with customers in the drive-thru line.

“Because these students might not have a lot of the same exposure to things like banking, planting that seed at a very young age that banks exist is important,” Bianga said. “We are trying to connect the ideas in their head that banks can be helpful to them throughout the course of their whole life.”

After all questions were answered in the teller department, students followed Bianga to the operations division where they were given a brief demonstration of the bank’s surveillance system. Once students finished watching their classmates tour other portions of the bank, they were ushered into the bank’s board room and introduced to a relatively new banking concept, a video teller machine.

“These kids grew up with electronics. They know screens and are probably a bit more tech savvy than we might have been,” Bianga said. “So we are going to get into a little bit of the technology side of banking.”

A video teller machine performs the same functions that a standard drive-thru teller does, like completing transactions, checking balances, and verifying deposits. With a video teller machine, however, customers speak to a remote bank teller using live video conferencing. This technological advancement allows a bank member who is in Marquette to have face-to-face conversation with a teller in Escanaba to complete their banking needs.

Students witnessed the feat on a large screen as Bianga stepped outside the building to withdraw a five dollar bill from her account. Emmett Darling, Gladstone first-grader, found the video teller machine to be the most interesting part of the field trip.

“I learned where the big chairs are in [the board room], where they have the little camera that gives you money from your bank account.”

Lastly, students were given a tour of loan services. After being quizzed on what they believe people take out loans for — with the top answers being pets, dog houses, and apartments — students were shown just how many people have borrowed money from the bank. When asked if she wanted to work in a bank one day, Rosemary Ross, Gladstone first-grader, gave a quick answer.

“Yes, because we get to help people with money,” Ross said. “We learned that when you put money in an account the bank can keep it safe.”

Students met back in the bank’s reception area to conclude their tour, where they were met with complimentary gift bags containing sweet treats, a money pencil, and a dollar coin with a card explaining all the different types of coins.

“Creating opportunities for kids and students is really important to us,” Bianga said. “Because these students are so young, just starting to give them a little bit of information that they can consume and remember was our priority today.”


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