The credit union branch at Goose Creek High looks just like a professional branch except for the school logo.
Morgan Montemayor speaks the language of financial institutions. She has handled member accounts at Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union, ensured compliance with company policies and federal regulations, and established proficiency in financial systems.
Morgan is a senior at Cane Bay High School. And she’s not alone.
For three years, students have operated Heritage Trust branches in area high schools. With student-run branches at Cane Bay, Goose Creek, Summerville and Stall, Heritage Trust has at least one branch in each of the three local counties.
The student-run branches are nearly indistinguishable from ordinary credit union branches, except that all of the “employees” and most of the members are high school students.
Heritage Trust established school branches as a way to teach financial literacy in the schools. Recognizing that sending speakers to classes had little impact on the students, they instead offered a more hands-on, peer-led approach.
Today, students chosen for the program get trained in the spring, work as paid interns at a regular branch in the summer and then work for school credit at their student-run branch in the fall. They learn all the skills required of a business – customer service, marketing, accounting, security, etc. Students also must learn to forsake their cellphones. They are not allowed in the workplace.
The students are held accountable for Key Performance Indicators just like their adult counterparts. At the school branches, they are measured on four metrics: number of new memberships, number of checking accounts, number of transactions and number of students affected by financial literacy lessons.
The branch at Goose Creek High School, the first one established, opens 80 minutes each school day during lunch. With 15 “employees,” the branch opened 69 new memberships last semester, including 21 checking accounts, 800 teller transactions and 544 financial literacy lessons.
It’s not just students. Teachers and staff at the schools have also opened accounts. Even adult credit union members are enthusiastic about the student initiative. “Members ask regularly about the student-run branches,” said Angela Gordon, in-school branch manager, who helped create the school branch program at HTFCU.
For Morgan Montemayor, the internship has been an eye-opening experience as she majors in finance next year at either Duke or Clemson. “The more I’ve learned, the more interested I became,” she said.
HFTCU’s Gordon says the credit union hopes to improve the next generation’s financial literacy and create a well-trained talent pool. “At the end, the students have an internship and two years’ experience in a financial institution,” she said. “They have experience in a professional environment, working with professionals on a weekly basis.”