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Teens run credit union, learn life skills Students accounting for their futures

Mount Si accounting student Jenn Clarke counts cash at the school’s Wildcat Branch of the Sno Falls Credit Union, where students, staff and community members can do their banking during lunch. - Denise Miller / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Mount Si accounting student Jenn Clarke counts cash at the school’s Wildcat Branch of the Sno Falls Credit Union, where students, staff and community members can do their banking during lunch.
— image credit: Denise Miller / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Among those receiving blame for the global economic meltdown are everyday people who weren’t responsible with their money. Mount Si High School has partnered with Sno Falls Credit Union to ensure that its students are financially savvy at a young age.

“We want to encourage them to be fiscally responsible and to start saving money, and to also be able to do the everyday transactions,” said Kim Sales, teacher of the accounting class that staffs the credit union’s Wildcat Branch.

Located in the high school’s commons area, the Wildcat Branch is open at lunchtime three days a week for students, staff and community members to open checking and savings accounts, and make deposits and withdrawals.

Running the branch are 16 accounting students who have undergone a ninety-minute training from credit union staff, and shadowed a branch teller for five hours.

Though the branch has been open and student-run for years, this is the first time the school has tied its operation with a formal accounting curriculum. The two school days each week the branch is closed, Sales is instructing students on the ins and outs of finance. She developed the curriculum with the help of her daughter, Stephanie Doyle, a Sno Falls accounting manager who worked at the Wildcat Branch while attending Mount Si. Also collaborating were Sno Falls Credit Union CEO Linda Larion, and the school’s director of career and technical education, Cindy Wilson.

Before this year’s Sept. 29 branch opening, students developed and implemented a marketing plan to lure in their peers. They brainstormed catchy slogans, designed T-shirts, produced a television commercial that was broadcast school-wide, and even changed the look of the branch itself.

“We wanted a fresh start this year, so we decided to paint the credit union dark, Sno Falls colors to bring it out. We’re trying to find different ways to make it more noticeable,” said Bethany Frieler, a senior accounting student.

Business is growing for the students, who said they’ve learned a lot in a short time, and appreciate the opportunity to get work experience that prepares them for real life.

Senior Zach Midgarden interviewed to become the Wildcat Branch manager, and worked at the credit union over the summer for training. He also fills in at other branches from time to time.

“I’ve always liked math, so I wanted to try out accounting,” he said.

Though he’s not sure that finance is the career path he wants to follow, he said managing the branch is a good experience.

“It’s students running their own business. It’s definitely something cool,” Midgarden said.

His peers were equally pragmatic.

“There’s always going to be accounting jobs, so it’s good to have experience under your belt,” said junior Tanel Neff. “It’s good to learn how to keep your money in line, as well.”

Senior Katherine Jamerson is looking way ahead.

“When I retire, I want to own my own small bookstore, so I have to know my accounting,” she said.

Accounting is just one of several of Mount Si’s career and technical education programs designed to provide students with work-readiness skills.

“Our goal is that when they leave high school, they can get entry-level jobs if they need to,” Sales said. “This program is just perfect in that respect.”

• Sno Falls Credit Union’s Wildcat Branch is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. For more information, call (425) 831-8210.

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