WHITE HALL - At White Hall High, Dottie Strahan’s business class is lined with computers, chairs, and desks. It has the look and feel of any 21st-century classroom.
But with the turn of a key, one section in her classroom opens up to a real-world career.
Bulldog Bank is a financial institution, where students get a chance to gain experience in the banking world. Thanks to a partnership with Relyance Bank, the equipment, the technology, and even the furniture make one forget that they are inside a school.
“Our business program is already very vast. You don’t see many schools that have a banking class and have an actual, built-in bank,” said Priscilla Foreman, a senior at White Hall High.
Foreman took Principles of Banking as a sophomore, the first year the class began at the school. Since the class, she has developed an interest in banking, hoping to become a community outreach director for a financial institution one day.
Right now, she is a certified bank teller, having passed the certification exam that each student takes at the end of the class. Most don’t earn that certification until well out of high school.
Foreman credits her success on the exam to the physical bank on the campus, which presents real-life scenarios for students.
“We don’t have computer simulations. Simulations can only go so far in the realism aspect. Having an actual bank, talking to individuals, and doing transactions really do help,” she said.
Dottie Strahan, in her 33rd year of teaching, said she loves the class because her students can instantly get a job.
“They have a choice. After they take this class, they can go into the banking and finance workforce, or they can go to college and get a degree in banking,” Strahan said.
The class is geared to help students understand the American banking system, in addition to the Federal Reserve System, economy, functions of depository institutions, and transactions.
“Before we get into teller operations, we talk to them about budgets and how to write a check. They’re just used to that debit card, and that’s it. Many of them don’t know how to reconcile a bank statement or write out a check,” Strahan said.
This banking class also highlights the partnership between the school and local business and industry. Strahan said while different banks within Jefferson County have
helped provide advice, Pine Bluff-based Relyance Bank stepped up in a major way, providing cabinetry and equipment to provide a real perspective for the students.
Carol Ann Rogers, senior vice president of operations at Relyance, said the collaboration ensures that the banking industry lives on within the community.
“We support that class. We support that school to further the education of the students in our area and teach them as much as they can about banking, finance, and their own accounts,” Rogers said.
In previous summers since the creation of the class, some White Hall students have worked at Relyance Bank.
“It’s a career path opportunity to show them about what banking can do and the career opportunities that you can have – from an accountant, auditor, or president,” Rogers said.
Foreman, who is interested in attending the University of Arkansas next fall, said she personally feels indebted to Relaynce Bank. She wants to return to Jefferson County following her college graduation to work for the bank.
“[This class] exposed me to the banking field. I have the experience and skills to take with me as I am moving up that can contribute to my future goals,” she said.
(Photo: Priscilla Foreman)