The Cats Bank at Conway High School not only teaches students about saving money but gives them a first-hand experience on how banks run.
CHS Teacher Alyce Hardee teaches the banking class and oversees the cats bank.
She said when she took on the bank, she didn’t know that they were only running it as a simulation instead of a real business with real money.
After that realization, she went to the administration to see how much they could keep in the bank and got in touch with Centennial Bank, who they now partner with.
"We got this thing open and started rolling," she said.
Hardee said students get in there and fill roles as account representatives that set up the accounts, tellers who do the day-to-day transactions, an auditor who runs the audit machine, security guard who keeps her keys during class and controls entry and the bank manager who monitors the work.
"We just try to make this as realistic as possible," she said. "They [have] to count [the money] every time, they got to count it when they put it it, they got to count it when they take it out."
Right now, Hardee said, she has about 19 students in her class and is pushing for them, as part of their classwork, to get in and open accounts, but has at least four other students not in the course who have opened accounts as well.
She said students have to have at least $20 to start and if they don’t have that, they use Monopoly money. Hardee said they get a check register and deposit slips that say Cats Bank.
"If they’re gonna take money out they have to write a check and if they’re gonna put money in they have to [use a] deposit slip," she said. "Even the play money [because] they have to go through the whole thing so they understand how this process works."
Hardee said the group has a lot of responsibility in making sure all money is accounted for and accounts remain private but the class is "doing great right now."
"We talk about integrity, we talk about honesty, we talk about having pride, we talk about ‘you never know who’s going to come up in your future, or reference,’" she said.
Junior Cade Stuart has served as the bank manager since it opened this year.
"What I do is oversee all the operations in the bank and make sure everything is running smoothly, make sure everybody is in the right place … kind of has an understanding of what they’re doing," he said. "My goal is just to keep everything in order, invite people in [and] make them feel comfortable."
The first day the bank opened, he said, it was eye opening and while they had a few challenges then, feels they are doing pretty well right now.
Stuart said having the bank at CHS is convenient.
"When we get out into the real world, we’re going to be exposed to this kind of stuff," he said. "We’re going to have to open a bank account, we’re going to manage our own finances, try to figure out when we need to deposit, when we need to withdraw and so it’s kind of good practice early on just to manage your money and just to get this exposure in high school."
Stuart said his favorite part of the experience thus far has been learning how a bank works.
"I think its really important to understand kind of the banking of our country and kind of how the economy works … how the money flows," he said.
In addition to the normal day to day function, Hardee said she also has a few surprises up her sleeve including the bank robbery that she plans every year, which students know about, but aren’t aware of when.
After informing everyone who needs to know, she said she plans the event and after it occurs, even pulls in the School Resource Officers to come in and take the report.
Hardee said after Christmas break she’ll start preparing her students for that by having people randomly walk into her room, do something and leave.
She said when the person exits, she asks her class who was in the room, what they were wearing, what they were doing and more to acclimate them to what bank employees are trained to do since so many of them want to get some kind of job in the business one day.
Most importantly, Hardee said she wants her students to understand how money works and how important it is to save but also wants to make sure other students at CHS know where the bank is and have the opportunity to take advantage of it.
"My biggest problem is just not having it more widely known," she said. "It’s just getting it known so they know what to do and know it’s here."