Student banking more than accounts

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 7, 2009

By David Vitrano


RESERVE—Sure, the young men and women graduating from East St. John High School know their reading, writing and arithmetic. But these skills are not always helpful when trying to make real life decisions, especially those dealing with finances. So a partnership between the school and the Louisiana Federal Credit Union is hoping to impart some good financial sense to the students there as well.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Rhonda Hotard and some of her colleagues at LFCU explained the partnership and resulting program to those in attendance.

For the fourth year in row, the financial institution will be operating a student branch at East St. John. “We call it our ‘Wildcat’ branch,” said Hotard, LFCU president and CEO.

Although the program is not new, LFCU employees and school administrators recently met to finalize and iron out details to ensure the program runs as smoothly as possible this year, Hotard said.

The branch, which is primarily operated by student tellers — under the supervision of an LFCU employee, offers many of the same services found at the bank’s other branches. What’s more, at the “Wildcat branch,” students may open accounts without a parent’s signature as long as the student has a state ID and a $5 minimum deposit.

According to Hotard, school branches are uncommon and typically are not profit-making ventures for banks. Profit is not LFCU’s main goal of this enterprise, however.

According to Hotard, this undertaking is about fiscal education.

“(The students) really have no basis when it comes to making financial decisions,” said LFCU Director of Marketing and Business Development Mia Perez.

So, when a student opens an account they are counseled on matters such as budgeting and how to balance a checkbook. Additionally, LFCU will be going into the classrooms this year to educate the students on similar matters and even on how to choose proper employment for one’s financial needs.

The students who become involved with the program as student tellers get the added advantage of getting a headstart on building their resumes as well as a special endorsement on their diplomas. Seven students were recognized at the school board meeting for their participation in this year’s program.

When board member Russ Wise found out only about 100 students have opened accounts at the branch thus far, he said, “I’m a little disappointed that out of 1,000 kids, less than 10 percent (have taken advantage of the service).”

Hotard assured him that efforts are being made to promote the program as much as possible, but he offered a little incentive of his own.

Wise said he would put up the initial deposit for up to 100 students at the school provided they make an equal deposit and do not withdraw the money before the end of the school year.

This announcement was met with a round of applause, and Hotard said she would set up the meeting to make it happen.