Credit Unions Expose Students to School-Based Savings

     Published on 9/23/15   Tagged under:    District News   

In 2009, Cooperative Federal opened a branch in Fowler High School. In 2013 and 2014, branches opened in Henninger and Nottingham, respectively.
Today, the three branches serve about 100 students—and staff—in the Syracuse City School District, offering easy access to a financial institution, and the financial awareness that can form as a result.
Thomas Dellwo, the Financial Education Coordinator for Cooperative Federal, said the primary objective of school credit unions is to provide savings accounts to students and to encourage them to save some of the money they earn regularly. He also aims to help students avoid having to pay to cash their checks, as well as to help students feel comfortable with mainstream financial institutions.
“So many students in the SCSD work but pay a fee to cash their checks and have nowhere to save money because they don't form a relationship with a financial institution,” Mr. Dellwo explained. “Our mission is to serve those undeserved by traditional financial institutions, and our in-school branch program is part of meeting that mission by helping connect students with basic savings accounts and encouraging them to learn the habit of saving. We bring the branch to a place where they feel comfortable, their school, to bridge that gap.”
Henninger Vice Principal Ed Blasland helped bring the credit union branches to Fowler and Henninger high schools. As a former business teacher, he knew the need to expose students to the branches was critical.
“Often, our students—and many of us—get to college and haven’t been taught how to save, how to have a checking and savings account and what are the good and bad of credit cards,” he explained. “We wanted to give our students that. Students said ‘wow, I never thought of putting my money into the bank.’ The benefit is that learning piece; they learn that saving is a good thing.”
Blasland said students help staff the credit unions, as well as spreading the word to other students through advertising and marketing campaigns to encourage them to sign up.
Jessica Graves was one of these student volunteers before her graduation from Fowler in 2010. For her, the school credit union sparked a career. In her senior year of high school, she served as a teller in the Cooperative Federal branch at her school. After graduation, she was hired by Cooperative Federal to work there for the summer; and now, she is a Loan Clerk at ACMG Federal Credit Union.
She said her experience with the school credit union taught her the financial basics she now uses in her profession. “Being exposed to the credit union as a high school student taught me a lot. It gave me customer service and cash handling skills, interpersonal skills and helped build my confidence,” Jessica explained.
“The student branches benefit students in many ways,” she added. “The branches offer them a chance to learn at a young age about credit unions and how to maintain an account. They can also help with loan education, student loans for college, and encouraging students to start saving for their future.”
As the school credit unions continue to expand, organizers hope to add even more hands-on experiences for students, and to find a way to integrate financial literacy into mainstream curriculum to reach even more students.
If you are a student who would like to enroll in the credit union at your school, please visit your school branch. To open an account, students will be asked to provide their student ID, be aware of their social security number and pay a $2 fee and a $5 minimum deposit (which will be refunded upon closing the account). Upon request, the $2 fee may be waived.

To support the Cooperative Federal School-Based Credit Unions in SCSD schools, please consider supporting their fundraising campaign, which ends on Wednesday, August 5th.