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2/13/2003

Kids’ accounts

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LOUISVILLE — The bank branch’s grand opening isn’t supposed to be until Friday, but the pirates next door are showing no respect for that timetable.

“We have the pirate ship over there, and I’ll bet they rob the bank three times a day,” said Lisa Atallah, the executive director of the WOW! Children’s Museum.

The pirates in question aren’t some rogue gang of buccaneers newly relocated to Boulder County, but rather kids dressing up for a little larcenous role-playing. The “bank branch” is actually the WOW! museum’s newest display — the U of C Federal Credit Union’s “Rags to Riches” exhibit.

“We were looking to try to find a financial-type institution to set something up in the museum,” Atallah said. “We already had the grocery store and the cultural playhouse, so this helps complete a ‘community life’ experience for the children.”

The new exhibit — which officially opens Friday — features an ATM machine, a teller’s window, safe deposit boxes and a real bank vault. Real to an 8-year-old, that is.

“We’ll have sample checks that the kids can fill out,” said Gloria Wadzinski, a marketing officer for U of C who was working up until the last minute to get things ready for the opening.

“We have worksheets that are appropriate for ages two through nine,” Wadzinski said. “It’ll be as simple as finding the nickels on the page to, for older kids, ‘How much money do you have in your wallet, what do you want to buy, this is how much it’s going to cost, how much change will you have?’”

A display on credit ratings “will explain how kids have to have good behavior if they want to have good credit,” she said.

The credit union is providing some money-related games for kids to play on the bank branch’s computer and titles like “Follow the Money” and “The Ultimate Kids Money Book” will be on hand.

“There’s a lot of different ways that kids learn,” Wadzinski said. “Some just want to sit in the corner and read a book; some want to be more active and role-play.”

There will be informational signage on things like paper money, coins and interest rates and, for would-be tellers, plenty of fake money.

“Financial education is really one of our core values,” said Sue Bailhache, U of C’s community public relations manager. “For years we have offered special accounts for children — we call them ‘Rags to Riches’ accounts — and so the museum sponsorship is just a natural extension of that.”

Atallah said she approached several banks with the idea of doing something at the museum, but it was U of C that liked the idea and agreed to fund the construction and supplies and software. Staff from both organizations helped with the design and layout of the exhibit, and the museum’s builder constructed it.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the family and the teachers,” Atallah said, adding that, in addition to the exhibit — which will be in place for at least two years — financial classes for kids will be offered on a semi-regular basis, starting with one Friday called “Money Magic.” The classes will go on throughout the year and will be taught by U of C employees.

Bailhache said her company employs a full-time education specialist, who not only provides ongoing education to U of C employees but also brings financial education to area schools and youth groups.

“We work with people at all ages,” Bailhache said. “It’s very beneficial for children to learn those basic financial lessons at a young age. It just really establishes habits, those positive financial habits, at an early age.”

Next year, the WOW! museum will be moving 21/2 miles east, into the old Lafayette firehouse, which will add an additional 2,000 square feet to its current 6,000.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.