By Garrett Shiflet Ι Daily Sun Staff Writer Ι November 28, 2022
If you go into a Citizens First Bank location, you might notice a young pair of hands shuffling your money.
Those hands likely belong to one of the 15 seniors from the Business & Banking Academy of The Villages High School who are gaining hands-on experience through internships with Citizens First Bank this year.
This is the fourth school year of the Business & Banking Academy, making it one of the younger academies at VHS. Since its inception, students in their senior year have had the opportunity to intern at Citizens in various departments of the bank with a mentor.
The academy’s teacher, Jennifer Sharp, said the internships offer unique experiences and a taste of the banking world.
“It’s a whole different world than being on campus — I can’t recreate things that they’re learning at the bank in the classroom,” Sharp said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Students are involved in various capacities of Citizens First Bank. This includes scanning documents and forms, helping balance accounts, handling withdrawals and deposits as a teller, and training to perform multiple jobs in the bank with the help of multiple mentors.
By the end of the school year, students will have moved through over three different positions at the bank.
Senior Caden Fockler did a rotation with the CSR’s and tellers then went to the wealth management department.
“It was awesome,” he said. “You get to meet new people and deal with customers one-on-one dealing with their accounts and really anything they needed done you could do with the help of your mentor.”
Fockler said the experience had such an impact on him he is rethinking his college major.
“I think I might look to a future in banking instead of just business management,’ Fockler said.
Students are at the banks two to three times a week and trade locations and positions after several months.
Seniors Jeremy Bayate and Jonathan Zheng worked in the Consumer Lending department of the bank helping residents apply for loans.
Bayate and Zheng looked at loan applications and helped loan applicants. Bayate said he enjoyed applying what he learned at the bank, like dealing with clients with debt consolidation requests.
“I learned about it last year and I’m seeing it in real life — it’s like a reality shock,” Bayate said.
Bayate said the academy had a big influence on his future career goals.
“I think before this academy I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but since I’m in it I definitely think I’m leaning to something financial,” he said.
Zheng was also influenced by his experiences.
“It made me more confidant into going into a business major or business in the future,” Zheng said. “Just overall it’s a great experience. It’s a really good academy to learn more about money ... better start now than later.”
Another senior, Curtis Douglas, urged upcoming juniors to take on the Business & Banking Academy’s opportunities.
“Anybody is going to have to do their taxes, anybody is going to need to know how to budget money and how interest rates work,” Douglas said. “If you learn it now instead of learning from the mistakes you’re going to make, then you might as well.”
Senior Zoe Padgett said Sharp has made the experience even better.
“Ms. Sharp is a great teacher in teaching everything we need to know about finances in our first year, and we get to apply all that in our second year,” Padgett said. “...I definitely recommend her as a teacher.”
Sharp appreciates the support of Citizens First Bank.
“We are happy that we are able to offer that for them,” Sharp said. “And hopefully put them in the right steps for their future.”
And so far, some students have taken those steps. Sharp said three graduates from the academy and VHS are now employed with Citizens First Bank.
Like most VHS academies, academy students can earn transferable college credit alongside three possible industry certifications.
For more information about the programs at VHS, visit tvcs.org, or Citizens First Bank at citizensfb.com.