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First Coast High Students Run On-Campus VyStar Bank

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Lindsey Kilbride
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WJCT News
First Coast High senior Brett Burgess was demonstrating Thursday how he signs up his peers for checking accounts.

Students and teachers at First Coast High School won’t have to go far to manage their money.

They now have a bank right on campus — and it’s run by high schoolers.

First Coast High senior Brett Burgess was demonstrating Thursday how he signs up his peers for checking accounts. He starts by having them fill out their information and then logs it into his computer.

He’s was wearing a tie and had some hand sanitizer and a placard with his name on it sitting on his desk, which happens to be in his own cubicle across from a row of tellers.  

And even though working here is part of his high school business class, it’s a real bank for students and employees at First Coast.

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Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
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WJCT News
First Coast High tellers are working in a new VyStar on campus as part of their business class.

He and 11 other students were selected through a rigorous interview process. Burgess said about 50 other students applied, 24 were interviewed and a dozen were chosen.

To train, they worked as paid interns over the summer and some of them still work at non-school branches on the weekends. This is VyStar’s 11th school location in North Florida, the third in Duval.

VyStar CEO Terry West said his bank doesn’t make money off the high school locations.

“In a typical high school branch we will spend about $165,000 to $185,000 to actually set up the branch, equipment and all,” West said.

West, a former middle school math teacher himself, said it’s about partnering with schools.

“We’re trying to help them learn things today that become life skills,” he said, “and also learn what it feels like to go to work every day — how to have interpersonal communications that are effective with the members that come in.”

And these students teach their peers financial literacy. Junior Seth Owen, a vault teller, said during downtime at the bank he gives financial presentations, encouraging classmates to open accounts.

“I think it’s managing your money, making sure you know exactly where your money if going so that you can track it rather than just randomly spending it,” Owen said.

The Duval County School Board is expected to approve two more VyStar locations at Mandarin and Fletcher high schools for the next school year at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.