Bowie High offers credit union services to students

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The Gazette (Maryland)
By: Virginia Terhune
October 7, 2010

Program that started in 2007 now available at more than 20 county schools

Getting in the habit of regularly putting money aside in a savings account is something that Drewana Bey wanted her 11-year-old son to learn early in life.

"Whenever he gets money, I ask him to put half in the bank, and he says, 'I'm going to add it to my life savings,'" laughed Bey, assistant principal at the Bowie High Annex for ninth-graders.

"It's so funny, but it's also interesting that he's developed that concept," she said. "You hope that'll stay with him as he gets older."

The value of saving money is a lesson that Bey also hopes her ninth-graders will learn through a program offered to Bowie High students for the first time this year by the Educational Systems Federal Credit Union.

Based in Greenbelt, the credit union serves more than 39,000 employees, students and their relatives in Prince George's, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's county public schools, as well as Prince George's Community College.

More than 20 schools participate in the school branch program, about half of which are in Prince George's County, said Mary Harris, marketing manager for Educational Systems.

Credit union representatives visit each school one or more times during the month, depending on the school, and set up a station where they open accounts, answer questions, and using a laptop computer, process deposits.

More than 700 student accounts have been opened since the program began in 2007, Harris said. Students can deposit money but not withdraw it, and school teachers and staff can also use the service, she said.

"The program is aligned with the credit union's mission to grow by helping the members of the education community achieve their financial goals and dreams," wrote DeLoria Savoy, manager of the Upper Marlboro branch and assistant vice president of member services for Educational Systems, in an e-mail. "Our presence in the schools allows for new and existing members to take advantage of the services we offer without leaving their workplace or classroom."

"We strongly believe that financial savvy students will grow to become financially responsible adults," Savoy wrote. "That's what makes our presence and initiatives in the schools so important."

The cost for a student to open an account is $5, and students do not pay monthly fees until they're 22 years old, when they may pay fees depending on the account, she said. Students can opt to receive a monthly statement in the mail, although the majority of statements are sent electronically.

For them to see their name on a statement is very powerful, Bey said.

"They're empowered to do it themselves, instead of their parents doing it for them," she said about the chance for students to learn to manage their own finances.

Bey said consumer finance is not something that's offered as a class to ninth-graders, although they are introduced to the banking system in history class and to the idea of simple and compound interest in math classes.

But holding students accountable and teaching responsibility is part of the mission of the school, she said.

"Students can say, 'It's my account -- I know what goes in and what goes out,'" she said. "It gives them a sense of ownership and accountability."

Eric Wood, the principal at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrolton, agreed that the credit-union visits offer children early, real-world experience in managing a savings account.

"It's real money," Wood said. "They can open a savings account, learn about interest rates and see how much they accrue over time."

They learn early that "It's not all about spending, it's about saving," he said.

In the upper level grades, the credit union visits complement what is offered through several different programs, according to Darrell Pressley, school system spokesman.

The lessons teach students about money, financial responsibilities and the free enterprise system and are used in classes offered through the school system's Business and Computer Management Services, Academy of Finance and Experiential Learning programs, Pressley said in an e-mail.

Students learn about accounting, insurance, banking and credit, entrepreneurship and personal finance through the Business and Computer Management Services program, Pressley said.

Also offered is the Financial Literacy for Teens program, he said.

In addition, the Academy of Finance Program is offered at eight high schools, including Bladensburg, Charles H. Flowers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fairmont Heights, Largo, Northwestern, Potomac and Suitland, Pressley said.

The program prepares students for finance-related classes in college by introducing them to accounting, financial planning, international investments and securities, he said.

For those not enrolled in financial classes, Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro offers the Millionaire's Club, a pilot program where students meet after school to learn more about personal financial subjects.

"Students will learn the importance of setting realistic savings goals, and increase their knowledge of financial products and services," said Donna Rodney-Corbin, supervisor of school system's experiential learning business and computer management services, about the school branch program.

Offered as a supplement to class work at the high school level is a free, interactive, online course of nine 45-minute sessions called FoolProof, which is developed and funded by credit unions.

Prince George's County elementary schools participating in Educational Systems in-school branch program include: Accokeek Academy Elementary, Forest Heights, Samuel Chase, Skyline and Waldon Woods elementary schools.

The middle schools include Accokeek Academy Middle, Charles Carroll, Gwynn Park, and Hyattsville.

Also participating are Bowie and Largo high schools and Prince George's Community College locations in Largo, Laurel and Hyattsville.

vterhune@gazette.net

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