Woodforest Hornet Training Center at Hillside High

Hillside High School student Jamal Stroud, (right) who works as manager of the new Financial Literacy Center at HHS, tends to the principal’s secretary, Maxine Bivens. (Staff photo by Brittney Cherry)

Hillside High School student Jamal Stroud, (right) who works as manager of the new Financial Literacy Center at HHS, tends to the principal’s secretary, Maxine Bivens. (Staff photo by Brittney Cherry)

The motto of Hillside High School in Durham is “Raising the Bar,” and the school raised the bar higher Jan. 27 by launching a financial literacy training center.

Woodforest Hornet Training Center offers bank accounts to Hillside staff and students (and their parents). The Center is sponsored by the school’s Business and Finance Academy, in partnership with National Woodforest Bank.

“We have the same staff as Woodforest Bank,” said Mikel Carr, a sophomore who works as a loan officer at the Center. “Customers can take out loans, make deposits, but they cannot withdraw money and there’s no ATM.”

Because of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. laws, “we cannot be known as a bank,” said Antoinette Daye, co-advisor of the Finance Academy.

“The Training Center is to teach students and faculty about financial literacy,” Daye said. “We want to help our students and faculty learn the pitfalls of credit, encourage them to save, and teach other aspects of financing.”

Carr said the Center teaches students “the seriousness and realness of our financial status.”

“It will help us keep up with our credit scores and not regain from free spending our money,” he said.

The idea for the project came from the Finance Academy’s advisor, Priscilla Ross. She said the Center is student-operated with 10 students working as customer service representatives, loan officers, tellers, and a manager.

“The Training Center it is a great experience for us,” said Bobby Burton, a senior who is one of the tellers. “It actually helps us see how transactions work so if we want to take a career in banking, we’ll already have the experience.”

The Center also helps students understand real life situations.

“[It] will show us how other people manage their money,” said Jamal Stroud, a senior who is manager of the training center. “This is a great way to base our experiences off of their success or failure.”

Students said they have also learned customer service skills.

“The Training Center teaches us to be more responsible,” said McKinly Brown, a sophomore and customer service representative. “It also helps us interact with people more.

“You have to take everything you learn from this program because you’ll need them in life,” he added.

Students said they’re also learning about the importance of financial literacy.

“It is important to learn about financial literacy at this age now because most people do not pay attention to their finances at this age,” Stroud said. “By the time they turn 30 it’ll be too late because they’ll be on their own and won’t have any experience in managing money correctly.”

School administrators want to encourage more students to focus on saving money, and open bank accounts at the Center, said Hillside Principal William Logan. The program also offers benefits beyond the school, he said.

“The idea of the Training Center is to make sure what students learn about financial literacy they take them out into the community to teach to others,” Logan said.

Before the Center opened, students involved with the project spread the word on campus.

“As a part of financial literacy training, students visited the cafe twice a week to teach other students about the difference between a credit and debit card, understanding credit scores and good versus bad credit,” Ross said.

Student workers incorporated a “Stock of the Week” game that teaches the ins and outs of stocks and bonds.

The Center has received a lot of support from staff and students.

“We set a goal to open 200 accounts before opening,” Ross said. “We surpassed our goal!”