By JULIA MILLER
Hope Federal Credit Union is working toward making the future brighter by providing Provine High School students with the knowledge of financial tools and services that can help them gain success. By opening the first student-run credit union branch in Jackson, it is giving business academy students the opportunity to hone what they have learned in the classroom by teaching their fellow Provine students.
“We are teaching the students to understand the financial system,” said Pearl Wicks, senior vice president of retail operations. “How to open a savings account, apply for a mortgage, manage debt, to save no matter what the income level is.”
The branch, now opened two days a week during the school’s lunch hour, had its ribbon cutting in October, but Hope has been working with Provine through the business academy for the last three years. The program was created with the ultimate goal of opening this student branch and is patterned after a similar program in Nashville.
“(Senior students) who started in the ninth grade are now operating the branch,” Wicks said.
“They are able to share what they learned with students and teachers.”
The Provine students handle all of the public interactions with their classmates while under the watchful eye of Hope representatives. One strategy has been to reinforce the importance of savings and understanding how a savings goal can help you afford big-ticket items.
One example they use is to illustrate how timing can impact the ability to afford a prom dress. Wicks said if a girl starts saving at 5, she has to put in very little per month. In ninth grade, you have to put in more per month, and at the beginning of junior or senior year, the increase per month is even higher.
However, no matter the timeline, the goals are possible if you plan ahead and are dedicated to developing your savings.
Having a knowledge of banking tools and services has a bigger impact than just financial health.
“By having an account with their name on it, no matter the dollar amount, the student is more likely to attend college,” she said.
Wicks said all teenagers can benefit from the lessons being taught, regardless of their own socio-economic background.
“If students are taught at a young age, they are able to make better decisions in the future,” she said.
The credit union is also extended to the parents and community in an effort to inform everyone the importance of being a part of the banking system. This also helps educate those who may find themselves susceptible to predatory lending, such as payday advance businesses.
“We’re excited to be in this partnerships with Jackson Public School and Provine High School,” she said. “We think this is a great asset for the school and surrounding community.”
Credit unions provide a unique opportunity to give back to the community. Unlike a traditional community bank, credit unions do not have an obligation to shareholders. Instead credit unions are owned by the members, anyone who has an account with them. Instead, the credit union is obligated to help its members and community.
“We take money that is put on deposit to give back to the community,” she said. “As a result, we charge lower fees and lower rates.”
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