Bruce Whitehurst, president and CEO of Virginia Bankers Association, has been involved in efforts to promote financial literacy for several years. Those efforts accelerated with the establishment of the VBA Education Foundation in 2007. Through the foundation, banks across the Commonwealth have provided financial support to provide training for teachers in the areas of basic economic principles and improved management of personal finances.

Most recently, Whitehurst and his colleagues in the banking industry have worked with members of the General Assembly and leaders of area school systems to support a new mandatory high school course in economics and personal finance. The course will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2011. 

In light of the recent financial crisis, the timing seems right to expose Virginia’s youth to this valuable material. According to Whitehurst, “Virginia will be among only a handful of states to require its students to take a course on financial literacy. Frankly, we’re surprised that it has not been a requirement in the past.”

Duffee, vice president at Peoples Bank of Virginia, was recently tapped to work with the Virginia Council on Economics to write curriculum for workshops that help to prepare the teachers for this new high school course. As an experienced educator who has taught at the University of Richmond, he was eager to get involved in curriculum design.

His involvement is part of a new program -- dubbed the VBA Leadership Division -- which is meant to provide emerging leaders in the banking industry with opportunities to support important initiatives of the association.

The work of these two Richmond MBA alumni serves to support a separate but related effort to have bankers connecting with students even before high school. In late April 2010, approximately 300 bankers in Virginia will spend time discussing basic money management with 18,000 students of all ages. Through hands-on exercises, often involving piggy banks, students will learn the value of saving and investing. 

But that is not the only point of the educational initiative. According to Courtney Fleming, Director of Training and Communications at VBA, the program has an added benefit. “We’re building awareness of career opportunities in banking.”