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Students call shots at 109 Wis. school CU branches
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (10/20/10)--Students from elementary grades through high school are learning money management skills by operating 109 credit union branches inside Wisconsin schools, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Youth-run branches account for 16% of the offices operated by the state’s 230 credit unions. More than 5,600 young savers have stashed more than $2 million in deposit accounts, or an average of $357 per student. “The youth-run credit union phenomenon has swept our state for two reasons,” says Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. “Young people are more committed than ever to volunteerism and want to use their talents in ways that also benefit their communities. Second, teachers know that credit unions’ motivation is in people, not profit-making, so they have parlayed their trust in credit unions as a best practice for schools statewide.” The state Department of Public Instruction has defined competencies for personal finance that students should acquire by grades 4, 8 and 12. Schools with limited resources have used credit union support to advance their own financial education efforts at no additional costs to taxpayers. Because the branches focus primarily on saving, not lending, they don’t drive profits for credit unions. Instead, they’re offered as an investment in youth and the community, the league said. The money the students save comes from allowances or part-time jobs. Some youth branches make small loans to teach responsible use of credit. And most provide students free financial education, either through the branch or in class. All youth-run branches are adult supervised and state-regulated. Student volunteers run the branches to learn leadership skills as well as good financial habits. Some go on to paid employment with credit unions. Development of youth run-branches earned Wisconsin credit unions a 2009 Governor’s Financial Literacy Award. The trend typifies credit unions’ REAL Solutions initiative, which serves members and communities without regard for profit. “REAL” stands for “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” Solutions. The program works through state credit union leagues to help credit unions offer services for people of modest means and “low wealth.”
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