Education feature: Students operating credit union

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo From left, Gunar Hawkins, Henry Martin, Maddi Turbeville, Joseph Callahan, Andrew Anaya and Cutter Burnett are six of the students who work at the student-run bank branch at Clovis High School.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Freshman Academy students are learning firsthand how to run a bank.

The Wildcat Credit Union, which opened at the school Nov. 16, is an educational extension of the High Plains Federal Credit Union.

Karena Langan, careers department head, said the bank branch provides students with hands-on financial education. Students who work in the branch learn budgeting, balancing accounts, how to write a check, how to make deposits and withdrawals and the ins and outs of how a bank runs.

“They get the real life, real world situation. Some kids don’t have that,” Langan said.

Kym Moore, financial education specialist with HPFCU, said she goes into the schools to enhance what the finance and careers teachers are teaching in class.

“It’s been a dream for us to have a student-run credit union where the student can learn first hand how to handle money and how a financial institution is run,” Moore said.

The bank is staffed with tellers, marketing representatives, computer technicians and security guards. Langan said the program will hire a branch manager later in the year when the group is more familiar with the project.

“The branch is growing into its own entity,” Moore said. “It keeps getting better. The possibilities for the students are amazing.”

The students went through the application and interview process to take positions at the branch. The branch operates during the two lunches at the Freshman Academy and has two staffs. Moore, HPFCU Chief Executive Officer Marty Tressell and Langan interviewed each student interested in a position.

“I was very impressed with the students,” Moore said. “They handled the process very well. I was blown away to think they’re freshman.”

Student Henry Martin works as a marketing representative for the branch. He said he and his fellow marketing reps focus on telling people about the branch and what it can do for them.

“I think it will help me in college when I need a job,” Martin said. “Everyone has to help with each other to get the job done.”

Cutter Burnett, another marketing representative, said he has fun thinking of promotional ideas.

“It’s a good idea to start and get everyone responsible with money now before they get in debt,” he said.

Gunar Hawkins works as a security guard. He said he applied because he wanted to a part of the first student-run branch in the state.

Joseph Callahan said the same.

“It looks good on applications,” he said.

Callahan plans to work in the medical field but said the experience with money will help him in the future no matter what.

Langan said school employees or students who have an account with HPFCU can withdrawal and deposit money. Students do not have access to bank account numbers. Moore brings a computer to the kiosk daily that the branch runs through and she actually accesses the accounts. Langan said she plans to expand the capabilities of the branch in the coming years.

Freshman Academy Principal Diane Russell said the school directs all learning towards real life experience.

Moore said opening the branch at the Freshman Academy was a no-brainer.

“The careers teachers talk to every student at the school. The branch goes hand in hand with the careers piece,” Moore said. “It’s a puzzle that fits together.”