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HARVEY, Louisiana -Recently passed legislation by the Louisiana legislature now mandates financial education be included in high schools’ curriculum. But JPSB Employees CU has had a head start in helping facilitate this by operating the only student-run credit union branch in the state for the past seven years. “Student branches do not exist because they are dollar-generators,” said Mia Perez, the credit union’s marketing director. “They exist to promote financial awareness with those branded as Millenials, Dot-Commers, or Tweens. Equally, they serve to teach students money management and employment skills needed for career explorations.” Opened in late 1996, JPSB ECU’s student-run branch is located inside John Ehret High School, home to some 3,000 students. Space within the high school’s office building accommodates two teller windows equipped with PCs, printers, and modems for branch communications. Vaults, security cameras, and safety glass provide security for cash handling. Daily activities at the “Patriot Branch,” the name adopted after the school’s mascot, include student and faculty withdrawals, deposits, account transfers, loan payments, and opening of new accounts. Student workers at the branch must complete a summer employee training and orientation to prepare them for their jobs during the school year. Upperclassmen run the teller windows at the Patriot Branch during the school’s lunch sessions under the direction of Gerry Brossett, a main office teller that commutes to the student branch daily. According to Perez, branch workers get first-hand experience in such tasks as counting money and accepting deposits that they otherwise would not get for years to come. Christal Lewis, the student branch’s first part-time worker said, “My friends..look at me and say, `Are you for real?’ They don’t think of a young person in a place like that.” Extending the field of membership to students allows the credit union to promote the primary goal of financial awareness to this segment, said Perez. “Teachers welcome credit union staff into their classrooms to speak to students on money, budgets, and credit card use while students ask about the credit union’s new teen club, boom!” Students also find value in the endeavor. With an estimated 40% or more of the students at the high school being employed, the onsite branch benefits students wanting to manage their own finances. Laci and Chris, both seniors at John Ehret High School who share a joint account say, “Sometimes we have practice after school. Having our account at the credit union lets us take our money out to pay bills so they’re not late.” The Patriot Branch has total shares of $132,212 and loans of $486,484. One uniquely student-oriented program offered at the branch is the ability for teens to apply for services without mom or dad joint on their account. Although minors may open savings accounts on their own any day of the week, teens as young as 15 years of age may open their own personal checking accounts and apply for ATM or debit cards – if they pass a “money quiz.” If the teenage member opts to go it alone without securing a parent as a joint owner, their financial smarts are put to the test – literally. Equipped with their personal copy of the NEFE High School Financial Planning Programr student workbook, the teen member takes a 12-question credit union-created quiz based on the workbook information. In addition, teen members are required to have a parent sign a Parental Permission Form which makes parents aware of the relationship between their child and the credit union, but does not make them liable. A Financial Service Representative collects the completed quiz along with the permission form before opening the account. “The tools in the NEFE guidebook combined with the benefits of membership in boom! help provide a solid financial foundation for these `millennial’ members,” Perez said. -

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