Valparaiso High School students and teachers will soon be getting a little help with those awkward growing-up talks— like how a credit score is formed and where loan application language comes from.
Starting this fall, REGIONAL federal credit union is launching a new Student Credit Union branch at the school. Students will be able to open savings and checking accounts, get debit cards, and learn more about financial responsibility.
"If you can do it at the branch, you can do it at the school," said Kevin Kosek, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development.
Unlike REGIONAL’s more traditional look at its 11 other in-school branches, with the familiar counters and dedicated conference rooms, all the banking at Valparaiso High School’s new branch will be handled through computer tablets. The branch will be open two days a week and staffed by one REGIONAL team member and student interns.
“Our motto is ‘for students by students,’" Kosek said. “The number one priority of the program will be financial literacy.”
The internships are a part of the credit union’s mission to educate the region’s young people on how to manage their money. Kosek’s team will partner with business, accounting, and finance teachers to develop presentations.
“We don't want to push our curriculum onto teachers, we want to enhance the teachers' curriculum,” Kosek said.
One of their most popular presentations is on understanding credit scores. This lesson has been so successful that students have taken the information home to share with their parents, who in turn visit the credit union for more information or to enroll in REGIONAL’s credit rebuilding program.
REGIONAL opened its first Student Credit Union at Portage High School almost 30 years ago. In that time, they’ve helped kids get loans to grow small businesses, build savings into successful investment portfolios, and develop strong credit scores by avoiding unnecessary debt.
“Once we start educating the kids, I think it's going to make a better and smarter society when it comes to financial issues,” Kosek said.
REGIONAL began in Lake County as Hammond School Employees Federal Credit Union in 1961. In 1980, it merged with Portage School Employees Federal Credit Union and expanded its charter into the northern part of Porter County. Today, REGIONAL’s community charter enables them to offer membership to anyone who lives, works, or attends school or church anywhere in Lake or Porter County, and their families.
“Northwest Indiana is a good community,” Kosek said. “It's a good place to live and to work, to have a life in, and we're just trying to make it better.”