For 10 years, students at Lake Brantley High School have gotten real-world experience working at the on-campus CFE Credit Union branch, and now would-be bankers at Lake Howell High are breaking into the business, too.
At first glance, Lake Brantley High School looks and feels like your typical school campus – students move and mingle between classes, teachers prepare for their next period, and administration is hard at work. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll notice something different.
Lake Brantley High also boasts its very own on-campus, student-run CFE Federal Credit Union branch, which is open all day during school hours. The fully-functioning branch was one of the first CFE high-school branches to open in Central Florida, and it recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Over the years, it has served not only as a financial resource to students, faculty, and staff, but also as an opportunity for motivated teens to gain unique work experience as student tellers on campus.
“For many students, this is their first job, and it helps give them a head start,” says Megan Jackson, CFE’s regional director of youth outreach. “The branches on campus are as close to a real credit union as possible. Students are conducting real-life transactions and are connected to our headquarters for support.”
Today, the CFE high-school branch program is in nine high schools throughout Central Florida, including Seminole County’s Lake Brantley High and, most recently, Lake Howell High School, with plans to grow the program exponentially in the region. Each high-school branch is molded to the individual school’s needs, but all students interested in working at a branch are recruited and trained the same way and graded for class credit with the support of a teacher coordinator.
While a high-school branch is not open to the public, having a CFE Federal Credit Union on campus is a benefit to the entire student population. Students interested in managing their own money are automatically qualified to open a savings and checking account without parent approval or age restriction.
“CFE was founded by 23 Orange County educators, so the backbone of what we stand for is financial literacy and education,” says Megan. “We want to help students and our student tellers be better prepared for their futures and learn positive money management.”
At Lake Brantley High, working at the CFE branch is part of an elective course in the school’s Academy of Finance program. Students on this particular academic track are recruited after their freshman year of high school and put through an interview process by CFE’s human-resources department. Two head tellers are also hired and paid to balance out the branch at the end of the day and manage and train new student tellers.
“Working as a student teller has been fun and a great opportunity,” says Kristina Arwady, a 10th grader at Lake Brantley High. “I enjoy helping people complete transactions and may want to pursue this as a career.”
“It’s a great way to get prepared for a job in the future,” adds Derek Molina, also a sophomore. “I know the skills I’m learning will be useful for whatever I do, and plus, I really like the people I work with.”
At Lake Howell High, where the program recently debuted, working as a student teller is part of the school’s entrepreneurship program, which allows students to graduate with an associate’s degree.
Once students from the various schools are selected to work at a CFE high-school branch, they take a field trip to CFE’s corporate office over the summer for training. They learn how to conduct transactions including deposits, withdrawals, check cashing, transfers, loan payments, and account maintenance. After a few weeks of hands-on training with CFE staff at the high-school branch, students receive support and mentorship remotely through a high-school support line. Monthly audits are also conducted to make sure processes and procedures are being followed.
“We do our best to partner with schools and make it work with their programs and academic tracks,” says Megan. “No matter which school a student teller is working at, they have a curriculum to follow. We make sure the student is getting something out of the experience like online professional development courses in finance or assigning financial literacy presentations to their peers.”
Working as a student teller has impacted the lives of many former students, including Lake Brantley High grad Noah Sinclair who worked as an intern in CFE’s accounting department and as a head teller on campus. He is now enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.
“My internship was definitely an important factor in getting into and achieving my dream of attending an Ivy League university,” Noah says. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and the knowledge that helped me stand out!”
“I love that we can help provide students with an extra notch on their applications,” Megan says with a smile. “When you start to see the difference it makes after students graduate, it’s incredible.”
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