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Student-run credit union hones important skills

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:50 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:50 AM ]

Besides refueling their bodies with lunch on Wednesday, students at Eagleton Middle School entered the cafeteria ready to save for the future.
That’s because the Royal Treasury Credit Union is now open for business for the semester. The student-run credit union is a partnership between the school and Y-12 Federal Credit Union. During lunch, all students in the school, which houses those in sixth through eighth grade, have the opportunity to open an account, make deposits and even withdrawals as they learn the ins and outs of saving and budgeting.
 
Jessica Burchfield, school advisor for the program at Y-12, has one semester under her belt and is now ready for the next. She has nine EMS students who have operated the Royal Treasury since school began. Added to this group will be six students in the Comprehensive Development Classroom of teacher Robin Gaines. This is the first time these special education students have been invited to join in the operation of the school’s credit union. Gaines and her students couldn’t be happier.
“We talk about social skills in class, about being polite and what’s appropriate,” Gaines said. “We also work on money in the classroom a lot. This makes it more meaningful.”
 
Gaines’ students will be involved in everything from opening the safe in the morning to taking in deposits, recording them, helping with withdrawals and opening new accounts. The students from last semester are working with them side by side. “These kids are super excited,” Burchfield said. “They love it.”
 
Burchfield was inspired to include the CDC members after one student in the class came to the school-operated credit union last semester full of enthusiasm. He wanted to open an account. The student is Derek Kyle. He came into the cafeteria, asked about an account and took home the necessary paperwork. The following week, he was back with the completed form. He’s been making deposits into his account ever since. Kyle said he is ready to get started as an employee. He said the money he has saved in his own account is for whenever he needs it. He has also been asking friends to come and start their own accounts.
 
“This is going to help me learn more about money,” Kyle said. When Burchfield initially asked if Gaines would be interested in participating, she immediately said yes.
“This is a big deal,” the teacher said. “When it’s over, I hope my students gain confidence, self-esteem and better social skills. I think the social aspect is what holds them back the most.” Working on this team will help them with communication skills in a nonacademic setting, Gaines pointed out.That is so important because it’s hard to set up those situations in the classroom. “This will be a very natural teaching tool,” she said.
 
There is even a little competition going on to see which grade can make the most deposits. The winner will be rewarded with a party at semester’s end.
The eighth grade is planning a trip to Washington D.C. in April. Burchfield said the credit union workers have figured out how much these students need to save. It equalled out to $13.88 per week. On Wednesday, the first day the credit union has been open this semester, Burchfield was there guiding last semester’s group of mentors and getting the CDC students ready for their roles. There was even a wheel to spin for prizes for students coming in to open accounts or make deposits.
 
The credit union at Eagleton Middle has been open since 2010, but this is Burchfield’s first year as school advisor for Y-12. She said the accounts these middle schoolers open can follow them into adulthood if they choose. Eighth-grader Chandler Ford has experience with the Royal Treasury. He worked in it last year and also last semester. He is one of the ones who is helping Gaines’ students get off on the right foot. He said the experience has helped him learn how to handle money and also talk to people. He looks forward to another fun semester.
 
For the ones operating the credit union, it is just like having a job, Gaines and Burchfield said. They wear the same shirts, are expected to be on time and do a good job. Attitude is also important. Burchfield even has the students go through an interview process. Y-12 Federal Credit Union also partners with Union Grove Middle School and William Blount High School to run credit unions there. In the end, the whole process teaches students about the importance of saving, the need to be accurate, how to be polite and gives them a big dose of responsibility. “This is such a great experience for them,” Gaines said.

Melanie Tucker-Story, The Daily Times
Tom Sherlin-Photographs, The Daily Times