Mount Si students, staff are taking it to the bank

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SNOQUALMIE - The bank is open at Mount Si High School.

After several months of work and years of planning, the "Wildcat Branch" of the Sno Falls Credit Union began operating inside the high school Thursday, March 15. Inside the branch, nestled next to the DECA store in what was formerly the Associated Student Body closet, five employees and a branch manager will work through the lunch hour, depositing checks and withdrawing funds for students and staff alike.

Kim Williams, a loan supervisor for Sno Falls Credit Union, said the idea of opening a branch inside the high school came about several years ago, and since then, the credit union and its president, Linda Larion, and Mount Si staff have worked together to make it a reality. She said in an age where money is readily available to many teens, the credit union can help them become fiscally responsible.

"We wanted to start educating the youth about managing their finances, and this is the best way to do it," she said.

Marketing teacher and DECA advisor Bob Morrisey said the high school does not have a class that teaches personal-finance skills, so the Wildcat Branch will help fill that instructional gap.

"It's pretty funny how these kids perceive credit," he said, adding, "Sixteen-year-old kids can get credit now at The Bon and through Nordstroms."

And it will also give students real-world job experience.

"They're going to learn the basic skills of banking," Morrisey said of the credit union's employees.

Before opening the Wildcat Branch, credit-union and school employees visited a similar arrangement in Vancouver, Wash. High-school branches can be found in five other Washington cities.

The new branch offers a full range of services, from savings and checking accounts to loan applications. It is available to students and adults and is open during the school's three lunch periods.

One student who knows how to manage money is junior Stephanie Sales. She was selected to be the branch manager and will supervise four other employees, all seniors, who will earn class credit for their work at the branch. Sales has worked for Sno Falls Credit union since last June and because of her experience, she helped interview potential employees.

"That was interesting, especially since they're my classmates," she said.

Williams said Sales' experience has helped.

"If we didn't have her, it would have been a lot more difficult," she said.

Employees who work at the Wildcat Branch are also enrolled in Mount Si's advanced marketing class, which has helped generate ideas to promote the credit union. Sales said free soda and candy was being offered for first-time transactions, and Sno Falls Credit union will match $5 for each new account.

"We want the students to make the decisions for the promotions," she said.

Within minutes of the branch's opening last Thursday, five new accounts had been set up. While on hand to help out if needed, Williams said eventually the students will be on their own.

"Our plan is to get them up and running so they are doing it solely by themselves," she said.

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