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By Chad Koenen


For nearly 20 years, youth from the greater New York Mills community have had the opportunity to get a once-in-a lifetime look at a community bank in their own back yard. 

Each summer, with the exception of 2020, Farmers and Merchants State Bank has had an intern working at the bank. It’s just one of the ways that the community bank gives back to the community, while also providing an opportunity for local youth to grow for generations to come.

The bank hosted its first intern in 2004, and for many years participated in the Pohlad Internship program, which helped to sponsor interns in the banking industry across the state. That program ended a few years ago, but Amy Wallgren said F&M felt having a summer intern was an important program for both the bank and community and has continued the internship program on a local level today. Wallgren said the program is a positive for the students, community and the bank itself. 

“We just kept doing it because we got two great employees who were probably tied to that program,” said Wallgren. “It’s a win for the students, a win for the community and a win for the bank.”

Sam Sleiter and Stephanie Von Ruden both worked at F&M as an intern and are now full-time employees at the bank. Both Sleiter and Von Ruden said they enjoyed their time working as an intern, which involves working on small projects in the bank and the community, helping on the teller line and getting a small glimpse at the day-to-day lives of people in the banking industry.

“I liked the ability to be involved in the community,” said Sleiter. “It got me experience in banking.”

During his time in college, Sleiter worked at a bigger bank. Even after graduating from college, Sleiter continued to feel the pull back to the small community bank like F&M. His experience as an intern at the bank was a big reason why he chose to come back to F&M.

“I found out I kind of liked the smaller bank more,” he said.

For Von Ruden, working at F&M as an intern allowed her to be introduced to all of the different parts of the banking industry.

“I liked how they introduced me to all of the different aspects of the bank,” she said. “It was neat and beneficial.”

Not all of the former interns went into banking, but some of them have goneinto finance, music, nursing and more. 

“All of the people that have done it said it was a good experience,” said Wallgren. “Even if you are not (going into banking), it is still a good way to be introduced to the world of finance.”

Wallgren said the hope was to show the interns the importance of being involved in the community through a variety of organizations and community events, while also learning about the ins and outs of the banking industry. 

This summer’s intern was Ashley Kassa, who has spent the summer learning the ropes of the banking industry at the community bank. 

Wallgren said the bank typically accepts applications for their internship program in the spring and selects an intern in April. F&M typically works with New York Mills School and accepts applications on its own for the internship program. 

The hope is to continue to offer the internship program in future years as F&M continues to find ways to grow the community and introduce local youth to the behind-the-scenes workings of one of NY Mills’ most important businesses.