By Greg Gelpi
Splitting her day between high school and work, Devon Hopper is banking on her future.
While her classmates work at fast food joints, Hopper is earning college credit and working as an intern for Washington Mutual, a bank that partnered with Lovejoy High School.
"I do basically everything a teller does," she said. "It's a big responsibility because you're dealing with other people's money."
Handling financial transactions, working customer service and learning about the workings of a bank, she does it all, and all at the age of 17.
The Lovejoy High School senior was hired as an intern with Lovejoy Village branch of the bank about a year ago and was promoted to a senior intern this school year as part of Washington Mutual's internship program.
"She catches on fast," Assistant Branch Manager Petrina Turner said. "She really gets the rest of the staff up and going as well."
Hopper was hired after applying, submitting an essay and interviewing for the job.
"Most of the training she gets can be used toward college credit," Turner said.
Unsure whether she'll pursue a finance-related degree with her experience and knowledge, Hopper said she has learned skills that she will use the rest of her life regardless of her career path.
"Especially going into college, I need to know how to handle finances," she said, adding that she plans to study biology or medicine if not finance.
Even her mother turns to her for financial advice on how banks work, she said.
Balancing bank accounts and a full schedule, Hopper takes a full slate of high school classes and puts in four days of work at Washington Mutual, working about 15 hours each week.
"The program gives me flexible hours," Hopper said. "It gives me enough time to do my homework."
Turner said she monitors Hopper's grades to ensure that work and learning on the job doesn't affect her class work and learning in the classroom. If her grades do slip, she cuts back on the hours.
Although Hopper may not know how to flip a burger, she does know how to take care of personal finances and mortgage payments.