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Financial Literacy for the Future: Total Choice Federal Credit Union opens East St. John branch

LAPLACE — Over the summer, East St. John High School student A’Kyri Paulding was chosen to train as a teller at the Total Choice Federal Credit Union branch in LaPlace. The expertise she gained will help her work as a head teller at the new Total Choice Federal Credit Union Wildcats branch on her school’s campus.

Aimed to increase financial literacy skills among students ages 14 to 18, the East St. John branch celebrated its soft opening with a Monday morning ribbon cutting attended by students, faculty and St. John School Board members.

East St. John students and staff have the opportunity to open a savings account with a minimum of $5 or a checking account with a minimum of $25. Checking accounts come with debit cards that allow for mobile banking, opening the door for students to monitor their spending and set savings goals.

Paulding and East St. John senior Jaylin Darensbourg are among the students who have volunteered to operate the branch during lunch periods on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Students celebrate the opening of the on-campus Total Choice Federal Credit Union with a song about banking set to the tune of Cardi B’s “I Like it Like That.”

“We have a schedule for certain people to do marketing,” Darensbourg said. “Certain people are working the bank. Next week, we’ll do promotions to get people to come to the bank and open an account.”

Darensbourg is especially proud of the new branch because it marks the first time a bank has opened on East St. John’s campus since the devastation of Hurricane Isaac. Both he and Paulding expressed a desire to make Total Choice Federal Credit Union a strong tradition at school and train underclassmen along the way. That way, the branch can continue to thrive long after the students initially trained to operate it have graduated.

“We get to be in a job force that we probably will do in life later on, and it also gives us an opportunity to learn how the bank works and learn what people do at the bank on a daily basis,” Darensbourg said. “We get to learn how to open accounts, transactions, withdrawals and deposits. We can teach people to take care of their money and make sure they know where their money is going.”

Paulding added that it’s important to teach students how to be financially responsible.

“I learned a lot over the summer, and I’ll be happy to teach the rest of the students what to do,” Paulding said. “We want for people to trust us and to build that bond to make sure students and staff are on the same page.”

Master teacher Billie Duncan reached out to Total Choice Federal Credit Union about setting up a branch on campus, and preparations started toward the end of the last school year.

Jose Folgar gets to work at East St. John High School’s new on-campus bank.

“These kids need skills,” Duncan said. “They need real life job skills. Total Choice was so gracious to take a chance on us in opening up this branch.”

She said the Wildcats branch would give children tangible skills that will last a lifetime. Noting that not every student goes on to attend college, Duncan said it is crucial to start career preparation in high school.

“I need to make sure that when you leave here, you at least have a skill to get a great job,” Duncan said.

She expects the new branch will encourage greater participation in East St. John’s accounting classes, part of the Jumpstart Career and Technical Education pathway.

According to Duncan, a grand opening in the library/media center will follow this week’s soft opening, allowing students a chance to learn the fundamentals of getting loans and operating bank accounts.

Tiffany Murray, VP of business development and marketing for Total Choice Federal Credit Union, said the campus branch is the perfect introduction to banking in a convenient location.

“I think it’s something they will have for the rest of their lives. No matter what profession they decide to go into, it starts with how to balance and take control of your money,” Murray said. “Financial literacy is a passion for me. I hope they definitely take advantage of this program because there’s not many in our area.”

While 18-year-old students can set up their own account, parental permission is needed to start an account for minors, Murray said.

Students can continue managing finances outside of school hours using ATMs or by visiting Total Choice Federal Credit Union at 100 Palmetto Drive in LaPlace.