Akron AAA, FirstMerit revise student award program after change in banking regulations

Published June 6, 2012, in The Akron Beacon Journal(Link)

By Caitlin Cook
TheNewsOutlet.org

A program to reward area students who help their peers walk safely to and from school is making adjustments this week to meet changes in federal banking regulations.

The AAA Akron Auto Club’s school safety patrol program, in partnership with FirstMerit Bank, now will reward each “safety patrolman of the year” with a gift card instead of the $100 U.S. savings bond issued in past years.

Rob Townsend, FirstMerit’s media relations director, said the change stems from the U.S. Treasury Department’s decision in January that savings bonds no longer would be available at banks or credit unions.

In Summit County, roughly 50 to 60 private and public schools participate in the Akron AAA program, creating about 1,500 volunteer patrollers yearly. Each school can nominate a top patrol officer for the year-end award. (Some schools nominate more than one student and split the award.)

Logan Scott, a fifth-grader at Price Elementary in Cuyahoga Falls, helped his classmates cross a dangerous intersection known as the “bridge.” He earned his school’s patrolman of the year award after being nominated and completing an essay on leading by example.

Logan received a certificate from AAA that indicated it was redeemable for a $100 savings bond from FirstMerit. When Logan and his mother, Natalie Scott, tried to exchange his certificate, however, they learned the bank no longer issues bonds.

“[FirstMerit] knew since January that they were not going to do savings bonds. They should have called AAA and said, ‘Hey, we’re not doing this anymore,’ ” Natalie Scott said.

Intent on recognizing Logan before school recessed for the summer, the Price PTA raised money and presented him with a $100 award last week.

Neither FirstMerit nor AAA Akron initially realized the program would be affected by the change in savings bonds, but quickly adopted the alternative plan. Winners who present their certificates at a bank branch will be awarded a $100 gift card (or $50 each for schools with two honorees).

“It’s not about anybody being denied; it’s about changing regulations,” said Kevin Thomas, vice president of Akron AAA.

Townsend said FirstMerit intends to stay involved with the program.

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