Lect. Maria Sannella (CSOM): "We found that 30 percent more students continued using savings accounts in later years than children that didn't have a school bank."
The Brackett School bank, which is chartered by the Massachusetts Banking Association as a training bank, allows every student in the school to open and maintain an interest-paying savings account.
Sponsored by the Cambridge Savings Bank, Sannella's program also teaches students to act as bank tellers and record keepers while under the supervision of teachers and parent volunteers.
Any money generated above the interest paid to individual accounts goes to benefit general school activities.
"The program demonstrates to the children just how a bank works," said Sannella, who taught in Arlington public schools for 26 years before joining the BC faculty full-time in 1996. "Every child who wants to gets to become a teller for a month and all can have their own bank account."
When a student brings money to the bank, one young teller - under adult supervision - will write a deposit slip, while another youngster writes a record sheet of the transaction. Later, parent aides enter all deposit and withdrawal records into a computer.
Sannella noted that many young depositors opt to save for major purchases, such a ski trip, a vacation or a dog. For those who may be less thrifty, banks rules prohibit withdrawals of more than $3 without parental permission.
"We even offer 'public service loans,'" she said with a laugh, "in case someone forgets their lunch money."
The program has produced positive financial habits among the children, according to Sannella. "We found that 30 percent more students continued using savings accounts in later years than children that didn't have a school bank," she said.
The school bank program also introduces the children to bank marketing strategies, Sannella said. "Whenever we would offer a pencil or eraser for making a deposit, they would come in droves," she said.
"When I left to come to BC, I thought the program might die," she said. "But other teachers stepped right in and it's still going strong." The Brackett School bank program currently has assets of more than $45,000, she said.
Sannella helped teachers to set up a similar student bank program at Andover's St. Augustine School where her daughter attended elementary school. Sponsored by Northmark Bank, the Andover program has also been well received by students and their parents in that community, and has assets of more than $35,000.
Similar programs are underway in Medford and Somerville, she adds. "We will give any school the model," Sannella said. "That's the whole purpose of the project in my mind."
Sannella's idea to offer financial education in an elementary school curriculum reflects her own educational background, she says. While teaching in Arlington, she earned both a master's and doctoral degree from BC's Lynch School of Education.
When Sannella earned a voucher to take another graduate level class at Boston College for mentoring a Lynch School student in classroom practicum, she decided to take a course in marketing. "I loved it. That was it," she said. "I came back to study for an MBA."
With her graduate business degree, Sannella had several job offers outside of her traditional classroom setting but opted to combine her occupational callings. "I always wanted to teach. I love teaching, it's one of my favorite things in the world."
She taught marketing for 10 years on a part-time basis at CSOM and joined the full-time faculty seven years ago.
In addition to her teaching and school bank administration duties, Sannella also mentors members of the Carroll School's Marketing Academy and Golden Key Society.
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