Credit Union Teaches Students Financial Literacy One Dollar at a Time

The business technology class at North Central’s J. Everett Light Career Center teaches students like senior Terone Johnson not only how to responsibly manage money but how to take those skills into the workforce with them when they graduate from high school.

With actual full-service bank branches in three Indianapolis high schools — North Central, Warren Central and Arsenal Tech — Financial Center Federal Credit Union (FCFCU) is teaching financial literacy in a truly hands-on fashion. They are not only offering checking accounts, savings accounts and other financial services to faculty, staff and students, but they are using student tellers to do it.

Two of those three branches, North Central and Warran Central, are connected to a career center. The business technology class at North Central’s J. Everett Light Career Center teaches students like senior Terone Johnson not only how to responsibly manage money but how to take those skills into the workforce with them when they graduate from high school.

Johnson and others spend six weeks studying a basic financial literacy curriculum that focuses on how to build and wisely use credit and loans; and how to budget and save. The branches even feature ATMs that allow $1 minimum withdrawals. Students then go to work for two weeks as part-time tellers. With their own cash drawer, student tellers are empowered to complete member transactions and work on their service skills. 

For Johnson, this arrangement presented a perfect opportunity to both learn and work, and his two weeks has now stretched into two years. As a senior on North Central’s state championship basketball team, attending practice, working and keeping up with his studies outside of school presented a challenge. With the help of an early dismissal program, Johnson is able to take care of all three — and it looks to be paying off.

“I know a lot about the stuff that people throw at you such as credit card applications; I’m very educated on that now,” Johnson said. “From savings accounts to credit cards, this program has definitely given me an education on managing my money” — and his time. 

“Since he plays basketball, an after-hours job isn’t feasible,” said Haylee Teeple, who serves as both Financial Literacy Manager and Branch Manager at FCFCU’s J. Everett Light Career Center branch. “This is Terone’s second year in the business technology program. His team won state this year, he’s headed to Purdue on a full scholarship next year and has participated in the student teller program. With all of these accomplishments, he has done an excellent job representing the credit union.”

Finance Center is one of the city’s 16 financial institution partners for Bank On Indy, a public-private partnership the City of Indianapolis has developed with local banks and credit unions to connect the 80,000 “unbanked” in Marion County with traditional banking services.

Spearheaded by Indianapolis First Lady Winnie Ballard, Bank On Indy is part of a wider campaign called Indy’s Campaign for Financial Fitness (ICFF), which provides education and financial literacy programs to low- and middle-income Indianapolis residents. ICFF is the umbrella for three efforts: Bank On Indy, free tax preparation services and financial education classes. 

“Becoming financially literate is so important,” said Mrs. Ballard. “The earlier in life we can help teach these important habits, the more successful and financially independent students will become as they enter the work world.”