Patricia VanSickle acknowledges she's pretty good at spending the money she earns working at KFC after school.
Saving that money? Not as much.
"I'm not all that great at managing it," the East Community Learning Center junior said.
Money management, including saving and investing, is a skill she hopes to improve upon through her school's new in-house financial services center.
The mock bank facility, which Akron Public Schools and KeyBank opened on Wednesday, aims to teach students financial literacy. It also is part of the finances pathway under the business and health services career academy at East.
Starting this fall, students in the finance pathway will help operate the bank, learn the basics of money management like balancing a checkbook, and help classmates manage their own accounts.
In those accounts will be "KeyCash" that students will earn for good grades or positive behavior in school. Students will be able to spend those dollars on items like school merchandise or tickets to the prom, Cedar Point or a sporting event.
VanSickle already has an East CLC hoodie in mind for her future KeyCash.
Superintendent David James said the program exposes students to skills they will need when they leave high school.
"It's important for our kids to see a version of the real world," James said.
Regardless of whether they embark on a career in the financial world, he said, money management will be a prime skill for them as young adults planning for their future.
"Mistakes or misunderstandings early in life, they have ramifications later on," James said.
KeyBank donated $500,000 through United Way to support the program at East. Half of that went to building the two-room financial center, which has cubicles and desks for individual financial consulting, a counter where students will work as tellers, and a computer lab and classroom space.
Tim Burke, the Northeast Ohio president of KeyBank, said the company will also support training for teachers who will work in the financial pathway at the school.
"What we didn't want to do is just write a check and hope it all comes together," he said. Dozens of KeyBank employees were on hand for the ribbon cutting Wednesday.
Educating students on ways to be responsible with their money — not spending more than they make, for one — will benefit them long term, Burke said.
"Having kids understand the budgeting concept will, I think, help position them for success," he said.
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.