School opens working credit union

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The Advocate
By: Bob Anderson
September 9, 2010

WALKER - Students at Walker High School began running their own credit union office this week.

Six seniors are operating the credit union as part of an educational program in which they also will be taking a new course in banking, said Jason St. Pierre, principal of Walker High School.

"It's a great opportunity for our kids to have some real life work experiences," he said.

At the end of the course, the students will receive banking certification that shows they have been through a banking curriculum. The certificate will mean higher pay for them if they go to work in a bank, St. Pierre said.

The students taking this course are all planning to go to college, but some of them are now talking about trying to get jobs at financial institutions while they are in college, St. Pierre said.

Neighbors Federal Credit Union officers said they worked with the school to open the credit union.

Each semester the credit union will train a new group of students, said Steve Webb, chief operations officer for Neighbors.

"It's an opportunity to teach students in high school some real life job skills," Webb said.

The students who run the credit union have been hired as employees by Neighbors.

They had to go through interviews, drug screening and training classes as they would in many other jobs, Webb said.

A Neighbors employee will be on-site at the school for overview, but not to run the operation, he said.

The credit union will be open three hours a day, three days a week, and will be available to faculty, staff, other students and customers from the community, Webb said.

"We've designed an office that has two teller stations, computers security cameras and everything, he said.

The 250-square-foot office is located near a commons area that will make access easy for students, staff and faculty, said Greg Inman, senior vice president in charge of retail operations.

It will also be available to off-campus customers, who can reach it without having to go through the rest of the campus, he said.

The office will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Inman said. It will be closed during school or credit union holidays.

"We also have someone who goes out and teaches financial literacy," Inman said.

Neighbors had a similar program at Lee High School in Baton Rouge while that school was operating, and opened a site in conjunction with Port Allen High School in January, he said.

"It's been wonderful," he said of the Port Allen site.

It's not a profitable venture for Neighbors, "but it's not extremely expensive," Webb said. "It's a chance to give some resources back to the community."

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