Lake Catholic students get hands-on experience at student-run credit union

MENTOR, Ohio - Just as the school year kicks off, Lake Catholic High School is kicking off a first of its kind program in northeast Ohio. Cardinal Community Credit Union is putting the finishing touches on its new branch to be located at the school.

"There's the Cougar Cafe here at Lake Catholic. There's so many things like food and things to buy so money management is important here," senior Leah Myers said.

Myers is a saver. She's stashed so much cash away she hopes to avoid student loans. Still, she admits temptation gets the best of her.

"Sometimes I go over," Myers said about her balance.

The consequences are hefty. Some banks charge $35 per mistake.

Cardinal Community Credit Union doesn't want students paying a big price so it's offering the SmartStart program for students.

"We rolled out a product just for them without fees," Cardinal Community Credit Union President and CEO Christine Blake said.

The credit union will open three days a week during lunch in the cafeteria. The tellers will be students under the guidance of a credit union employee. The tellers won't be paid, but they will have the opportunity to visit another branch and shadow employees in any department.

To encourage students to save, the credit union is matching initial deposits of $20. If the school reaches the savings goal of $1,500 by the end of the year, Cardinal will match that or pay for a event at the students choosing.

The Credit Union opens for business on Sept. 24, but students are already planning their savings goals.

"I'll probably start off with $50 and maybe add $20 every month after that," senior Daniel Miljak said. "It's easy to put in enough money and keep it going and get some interest going. It's better than keeping it in my house."

Even if students don't have an account, they'll learn financial concepts like interest bearing accounts in the classroom. Cardinal will give Lake Catholic tools to keep the lessons going beyond the credit union.

"It's not just un-managed access to an ATM now. With education, we are trying to teach these students with examples," said Lake Catholic High School President Sal Miroglotta.

Cardinal will hold a simulation with interested students to teach them how to manage money in a real life scenario over a month.

"Everyone gets a career and job, and they have to go buy a house and car and stay within that budget for a month," Blake explained.

If the program works, this may be an example for other schools.

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