MCALLEN, RGV – IBC Bank has made it their mission to improve and promote financial literacy among elementary school students.

They hold several programs and events throughout the year and encourage schools to take part in this activity.

This past spring, IBC Bank-McAllen employees and partnered schools celebrated Financial Literacy Month and “Teach the Children to Save Day” by using a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation program to educate students in the area.

Debra Loya Thomas
Debra Loya Thomas

The students were taught various financial topics such as how to save money, earn interest, and maintain a check register. Teachers at participating schools teach financial lessons to elementary, middle, and high school students and have done so since 2007. In total, from the month of March to May, they were able to present at 38 schools, reaching 6,000 children from Oklahoma and Texas.
One of IBC Bank’s longest partnerships is with Sam Houston Elementary of McAllen ISD. IBC has a 17-year association with them. Over the years it has helped the school develop Houstonville, a micro society where children earn, spend and save money.

“They are able to communicate. They are able to stand tall and confident. They are able to express their opinions and to listen to the opinions of others, they are collaborators, they are negotiators, they are business people already. When they leave here they are ready to go into society, in middle school and high school,” Debra Loya Thomas, principal of Sam Houston Elementary told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“It affects the way they think. The way they buy, they save. We have got to build leaders and collaborators, they have got to work in teams, they have to have that growth mindset, of meeting the challenge. It is teamwork process that leads to success.”

Once a week from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each Friday, pre-kinder children act as the U.S. Treasury by cutting and making the school money for the event. Older students work in businesses like H-E-B, Costco, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart. Third graders are in charge of the bank, from security guards to presidents. The school acts as a market in which students may buy and sell products. It also acts as a learning ground for business skills and ethics. Apart from running their minitropolis, the children also take fieldtrips around the community to visit many shops that they imitate such as Home Depot, H-E-B, and IBC Bank itself.

“Seventeen years in association with IBC Bank, we have been doing it so long we have it like clockwork. My pre-K and kindergarten are my treasury. They cut and make all of our money. We have the IRS, H-E-B, Walmart, Costco. All of these companies are built into our society. Students have to interview for the job. They are in charge of payroll, deposits, everything to run a business… Getting to see the end result is a beautiful process,” Thomas said.

David Guerra, president of IBC Bank in McAllen, took time out from work to visit Sam Houston Elementary for the Financial Literacy Day. There, he read a children’s book to 80 fourth graders. The book he read, A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams, speaks about the importance of financial literacy, a subject important to Guerra and his bank.

“A Chair for My Mother is a lovely children’s book full of life’s lessons. It talks about financial loss and coming back from financial loss. It talks about sacrifice, it talks about saving, it talks about neighbors helping neighbors. The premise of the story is save for the things you need, not the things you want,” Guerra told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“The focus of the book was about having a savings jar at home where you can save your coins or dollar bills and for the family together knowing that every nickel, every penny, every dime, every dollar, over time can add up to significant dollars.”

Sam Houston elementary with the help of IBC Bank has become the pioneer for this hands-on financial literacy program. Other schools in the region and nationwide have established their own minitropolis to teach their students these skills. Guerra said IBC Bank will continue its push to see financial literacy skills become part of a child’s education.

“It teaches discipline, if you can teach students not to have heavy debt when they go to school. The children are so curious. They are hungry for information and they are very open about their situations at home and why they need to save the money,” Guerra said.