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1st Educational Savings Branch celebrates 40th anniversary

The Savings Bank celebrated 1st Educational Savings Branch Day in Wakefield on Tuesday, April 6th with current and former Wakefield Public Schools officials and state officials at Wakefield Memorial High School. Wakefield Town Council recently declared April 6, 2021, as 1st Educational Savings Branch Day in Wakefield in honor of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the student-run banking branch of The Savings Bank at the school.

In addition to the proclamation presented by Town Councilors, The Savings Bank and its 1st Educational Savings Branch were honored with proclamations and citations from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Governor Charlie Baker, and the Massachusetts Division of Banks.

Displaying the proclamations that were presented to Bank and school officials are (from left to right) former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Maio, who was instrumental in launching the student banking branch in 1981; Executive Vice President, Senior Retail Banking Officer Raichelle Kallery, The Savings Bank; Wakefield Superintendent of Schools Douglas Lyons; Wakefield Memorial High School Principal Amy McLeod; State Representative Donald Wong; and Marketing Coordinator Ally Houghton, The Savings Bank.

“The Savings Bank is proud of the accomplishments and the role that the 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank has played in the lives of thousands of Wakefield students during the past 40 years,” Bob DiBella, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Savings Bank said following the Councilors vote. “The success of the student-operated banking facility and its longevity are testament to the founders’ vision. We are honored that the Town of Wakefield has recognized these accomplishments in this way.”

The 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Saving Bank opening on April 6, 1981 was the culmination of more than a year of preparation and planning by Bank and school personnel. The seed for a student banking facility was planted by then-Bank President Donald E. Garrant who envisioned a financial education program that would benefit students and the community. It was his vision that students would learn financial skills that would last a lifetime while potentially carving out career paths for those who were instrumental in operating the student bank each year.

 The Savings Bank, known then as the Wakefield Savings Bank, requested a hearing from the Massachusetts Banking Commission in December 1980 setting the wheels in motion for approval of a student-operated and student-run banking facility at the high school. Students, Bank officers and staff, and school administrators and staff requested the hearing after more than 15 months of behind-the-scenes work. The group focused on the premise that although state law strictly regulated the creation of new banking facilities, a provision in the statute permitted an existing institution to establish a banking operation for educational purposes. In a first for the Banking Commission, a hearing was held outside its Boston office, and approval was granted soon after by Banking Commissioner Gerald Mulligan, creating the first student operated bank branch office in the country.

Its name was selected from among entries submitted by students and the student-operated banking branch opened its doors for business during lunch periods on Monday, April 6, 1981.

During its first years, the 1st Educational Savings Branch of The Savings Bank served as a model for other banks and financial institutions over the world. Bankers from as far away as Singapore and Dublin traveled to Wakefield to see the banking branch in operation in addition to those who came from all corners of the country to observe the student bankers at work.

“Not only was the First Educational Saving Branch a novel idea it was also a model from which other institutions learned from and brought back to their own communities,” Bank President DiBella added. “Students not only served as tellers taking deposits and making withdrawals, they were also loan officers who helped their fellow students, they also worked at The Savings Bank during the summer to prepare for the school year.

At the end of its first year, the student branch realized $100,000 in deposits and presented the School Department with $2,000. Since 1981, The Savings Bank and the First Educational Savings Branch have donated more than $77,850 to the Wakefield School Department.

  “Because of Donald Garrant’s forward-thinking ideas, more than 150 Wakefield Memorial High School gained valuable experience as student officers, and thousands of students, not only WMHS students but all Wakefield students, had an opportunity to open bank accounts at their school. As a result of the success of First Ed, The Savings Bank created the Children Learning to Understand Banking (C.L.U.B.) at all elementary schools, the Galvin Middle School and St. Joseph’s School which was also coordinated with the help of the high school bankers.”

 To honor the late Donald Garrant and his commitment to financial education and literacy, The Savings Bank established the Donald E. Garrant Foundation in 2001. The foundation has awarded financial grants to organizations and institutions in the communities served by the Bank, including $183,000 to financial education programs in Wakefield since its inception.

Bank President DiBella also acknowledged the contributions made by then-Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Maio and Business Department chair James Neenan.

“It was the hard work of these three individuals and many students that brought the idea of a first-in-the-nation student banking branch to fruition,” he continued. “It is a tribute to them that the First Educational Savings Branch has continued to be a vital asset in the community.”

 “Although the student-operated branch has been unable to open since March 2020, we hope to acknowledge and honor its founders and student officers at a later date when safe to do so,” Bank President DiBella concluded.

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