An IndyCar driver speaks to about 150 Long Beach Unified School District students in 2019. Courtesy of the Banc of California

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach brings many things to mind: racecars, burnt rubber, rowdy spectators. For most people, financial literacy isn’t high on that list—but Banc of California is set to connect the two, at least for a group of lucky high school students.

Banc of California this year will continue a partnership with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach that started in 2018 in which the financial institution invites students at schools around the Long Beach Unified School District to the Grand Prix to participate in a special program focused on teaching financial literacy and life skills.

In the one-day program, kids will get to experience the Grand Prix on Friday, the first day of the event, while also learning about credit and career opportunities.

When it first started, the program initially welcomed 25 to 35 students, but it has since grown to allow 150 LBUSD juniors and seniors, particularly those in math and science programs, to participate this year.

Participants are treated to a full day at the Grand Prix, arriving early in the morning to take a tour of the venue, from the track to the Lifestyle Expo. They will also be able to head into the paddock to talk with the drivers and their teams as they prepare for the race.

They “get to see firsthand…what it takes to manage a team like this,” Banc of California Marketing Director Jeff Pace said.

The tour is followed up by a presentation from the Banc of California, which is one of many the bank puts on annually to teach the many aspects of managing one’s finances.

“This year, we’re going to be providing a lesson that’s focused mostly on credit,” Banc of California Community Reinvestment Act Program Manager Shannon Vesely said. “We are tying that back into how it can help buy a car, since it is for the Grand Prix.”

After a short presentation, kids will participate in a quiz with a chance to win gift cards.

“That was a really big hit last time we did it,” Vesely said.

Several speakers will also be present to share their life experiences. A member of the military, a racecar driver and an engineer will all talk about their career paths and what goes into their occupations. While the financial aspect of the program is important, the folks at the Banc of California hope the speakers will also impart other life lessons.

“It’s not just about banking. Banking is a small portion of it…it’s really about expanding the way they’re looking at the world,” Haugh said. “[If you want to] become a racecar driver, why couldn’t you?”

After hearing from the speakers and a quick lunch provided by the bank, the students get to sit in the stands and watch practice laps for the IndyCar race.

“They get a taste of everything,” Pace said. “They get the full experience as they’re out there and interacting with the various groups that help put this event together.”

This type of community education is nothing new for Banc of California’s team. According to Vice President of the Community Reinvestment Act program Chris Garcia, the Banc holds as many as 150 “educational and empowerment seminars” in a single year focused on financial literacy.

“Our community reinvestment effort is really around financial literacy and providing those stepping stones and those tools for either youth or young adults to make sound financial decisions as they get older,” Garcia said. “For these school districts, these nonprofits, usually the No. 1 thing that they’re asking you for is financial education and empowerment seminars.”

While many of the bank’s partners for these programs are school districts and organizations specifically focused on business and financial education, working with the Grand Prix is important for the Banc of California, officials said, because of the crucial role it plays in Long Beach Beach and its economy.

“Each time they throw this, it brings jobs into the city just for that weekend,” Haugh said. “It really helps them understand the power of what this brings together in a community.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.