Credit union offers students lessons in financial responsibility
When senior Janet Tagle wants to tuck money into her savings, she doesn't even have to leave school property.
Same thing if she needs a little pocket money. The ATM is near the student-run bistro at the Birdville district's Center for Technology and Advanced Learning. The bistro is a popular place for students.
The 18-year-old Haltom High student is a customer -- and intern who also works part time as a teller -- at the newly opened Unity One Credit Union branch that opened at the center.
School district and credit union officials hope that the close proximity of the credit union will not only give students work experience but also educate them about the importance of being financially literate.
Tagle is already cashing in on what she has learned at school, and on her job.
"I need to remember to save 10 percent of it," Tagle said, referring to her paycheck, one day while working behind the counter. "I want my friends to know all about credit unions."
Erayne Hill, director of community and public relations for Unity One, said the member-owned credit union shared Birdville's interest in helping young people.
"We really care about young adults; they are growing up to be part of the work force and need a good financial education," she said.
The Birdville district's learning center at Mid-Cities Boulevard in North Richland Hills is where juniors and seniors from throughout the district can take hands-on courses to prepare them for college and the work force.
Run more like a college campus -- there are no bells that ring between classes -- the center also has a student-run bistro, a store, movie theater and an auto repair shop so that students can have a chance to experience different careers. So having a financial institution on campus is a natural fit.
Linda Anderson, director of career and technology education for the district, said that when the center was built, there were plans for a bank or a credit union to be there. Unity One also has a branch at Fossil Ridge High School in the Keller school district.
The credit union is open to anyone in the community, but it is designed with students in mind. For instance, the automatic teller machine dispenses $5 bills, along with $20 bills.
The credit union encourages young people to open accounts by contributing $10 to their favorite school organization. Also, people are not required to have a minimum balance in their checking accounts and only need to keep a minimum of $5 in savings.
Students can also open a savings account without their parents' permission. She pointed out that many students need to learn things such as the difference between debit and credit cards.
Priscilla Garcia, who manages the Unity One branch at Birdville's technology center, said teens are often intimidated by banks.
"When some kids and their parents come in, they don't know anything about managing their money," Garcia said.
Young people also need to learn to balance their checking accounts and to avoid overdrafts and the associated fees, she said.
While Tagle waited for customers at the credit union last week, she talked about how working as a teller is giving her valuable work experience. Tagle said she heard about the Unity One program through the credit union's teen advisory board and applied right away.
Tagle is considering a career in marketing or public relations when she graduates from college.
In the meantime, she is talking to her friends about being financially responsible.
"I'm always talking to them about the credit union," she said.