When Jason Warren, principal at Greenville Senior High School, reached out to Greenville Federal Credit Union in 2016, he wanted to provide his students with real-world experiences by bringing a fully-functioning credit union branch into the school. Five years later, the success of the program has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Fully operated by high school students, “The Branch at Greenville High” provides students with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and meet their personal banking needs within the school.
“The opportunity for our students to be trained as credit union employees and to gain real-world experience in a professional environment, is priceless,” says Warren, who identified a former teachers’ lounge as the place to create the branch. Conveniently located off of the cafeteria, the credit union worked with construction and design partners to completely renovate the space. Now, it is furthering the district’s goals of preparing students for college and careers by providing the “soft skills” that come with real-world banking and job training.
Providing opportunities for high school students
Greenville Federal Credit Union works with the high school to provide training to students during summers. Students are trained at a local branch through a paid summer training program, in which students work side-by-side with tellers to learn about processing transactions, security, fraud protection and professional responsibilities. By the time school starts, the students open up the high school branch to start accounts and process transactions for students, teachers and staff.
“A lot of kids are interested in having their own account and a debit card to flex their independence a little bit,” says Catherine James, senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy at Greenville Federal Credit Union. “Many of them have jobs after school and need to be able to put their money in a safe place and to utilize a checking account.” The high school branch allows these students the opportunity to learn basic banking transactions within the comfort of their school — surrounded by students, teachers and staff who can help them make responsible decisions.
The students who run the branch receive Honors-level course credit and make presentations to business classes on the basics of personal finance, including why having a bank account is important and how credit and loans work. The business operations provide opportunities for experience and lessons in marketing strategy by advertising services and educating the student body on what “The Branch” can offer.
Program ‘changed my life completely’
One student, Thomora Mosely, worked at the high school branch in its earliest days and the experience put her on a path to success.
“One internship in high school changed my life completely. At the age of 17, I was offered a position to work at The Branch at Greenville High School. I was nervous yet excited to start working in a professional environment; I was so young and only had experience in the food industry,” Mosely says. “It was not easy; however, once the summer program started, the employees at Greenville Federal Credit Union welcomed our group like we were family. When the internship ended in late summer, I was offered a permanent, part-time teller position. By working at the credit union, I acquired many professional attributes and learned how to effectively communicate. In four short years, I advanced to a full-time member specialist. I truly value Greenville Federal Credit Union and appreciate everyone that has helped me advance in my career.”
In the first five years, 41 students completed the training program and worked in the Greenville High branch. Eight, including Mosely, were later hired by Greenville Federal Credit Union as part-time or full-time employees. Some of the students were inspired to pursue financial careers, and as the program’s first group is graduating college, a few are graduating with accounting or marketing degrees.
Greenville Federal Credit Union’s ongoing commitment to education
When Greenville Federal Credit Union was founded in 1968, it served as an educators’ credit union. In 2001, the credit union transitioned to a community credit union but maintained its commitment to supporting local schools, teachers, staff and students. “We’ve always been committed to uplifting educators, students and families,” says Catherine James. “We created The Branch at Greenville High School because our mission is to help our members and community achieve financial wellness and prosperity.”
That commitment extends to the next generation, and helping students become comfortable with the banking experience while in high school can lead to more responsible financial decisions down the road. Principal Warren says, “This is a perfect opportunity for our students that could not exist without the support of a business partner like Greenville Federal Credit Union.” For the credit union and Greenville High School, this program has been an incredible success, and the development of more experienced and educated students coming out of high school is a win for the community as a whole.
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