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Our Community Development

Minibank Accounts Give Students Their First Banking Experience
By Emily Hone / Morning News / 02/28/2007

Morning News — Emily Hone
Lela Abarahamson, president of the Shoshone-Bannock High School Minibank, cuts the ribbon marking the bank's official opening Friday. To her right are her board members, Gavin Eldridge and Seekie Dixey. To her left is junior high minibank president Sadee Nappo with her board members, Leloni Nappo and Kerwin Toane. In the background is Gerad Kipp, financial education representative from the Native American Community Development Corporation.

FORT HALL - A proud group of students gathered Friday for a ribbon cutting that signified the opening of the Shoshone-Bannock Junior/Senior High School Minibank.

No less proud were Gerad Kipp and Michelle Guzman, who raised enough money so each of the school's 168 students can open an account in the bank.

The mini bank at the junior/senior high school and one at Fort Hall Elementary School are part of the Native American Community Development Corporation's goal of bringing financial literacy to children on the Fort Hall Reservation.

The NACDC is the economic development arm of the Native American Bank, N. A., a national bank established by a group of tribal nations and Alaska Native Corporations.
They pooled their resources to organize a holding company, Native American Bancorporation, and buy their first bank at Browning, Mont., in 2001.

Their primary goal is to help tribal nations achieve economic sovereignty by giving them access to financing. As one of the NAB's services, its community development arm not only to helps with economic development, but aids the members of the tribes in learning how to handle money.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes became the 17th tribe to join NAB when they became an investor last year. Kipp, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, is the financial education representative for the NACDC at Fort Hall.

Guzman is the student advisor for the Sho-Ban School minibank. Kipp organized the Fort Hall Elementary Minibank first, and says almost 100 percent of the students there have opened savings accounts. He's working now to get all of the students at the Sho-Ban School to become bank customers.

All a student needs to open an account is $3, he said. He and Guzman are committed to seeing that each student has the money. "A lot of the students had their own money," he said, "But we ran concessions at basketball games and other events to raise money so all of the kids could open savings accounts. We want every one of them to have this banking experience they would not otherwise get living on the reservation."

Guzman said her main job so far has been organizing the fundraisers and making signs to advertise them. When the students sign up for an account, Kipp said, each is given a bank book and a piggy bank to save their coins for deposit. "It doesn't matter whether they deposit five cents or five hundred dollars, they still get the experience."

He said the Tribal Credit staff, which makes loans to adult tribal members, is assisting with the minibank program and is committed also to helping adults become financially literate. Kipp said each of the minibanks has its own president and board of directors. Lela Abrahamson was nominated by the high school's teachers to be president of that bank. Her board members are Gavin Eldridge and Seekie Dixey. Sadee Nappo was nominated to be president of the junior high bank. Her board members are Leloni Nappo and Kerwin Toane.

Once the banks are up and running, they will be holding regular board meetings. He said more than 100 kids had opened accounts by noon Friday, and 50 percent of them used
their own money. Kipp said in addition to teaching the students how to use bank facilities, he plans to teach them the value of saving and investing.

His next step will be teaching them internet banking. He hopes eventually to provide the older students an ATM machine at the school. He said the money in the accounts is deposited with Wells Fargo Bank in Pocatello, and from there is transferred to the Native American Bank headquarters in Denver.

"I'm setting high goals for the kids and am committed to helping them reach them," Kipp said.




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