An innovative partnership to teach
money-management skills to students launched this month between a southern Ohio
school district and a local credit union.

The Atomic Credit Union
is establishing student-operated credit unions in the three Jackson City School District elementary schools. .
The credit union offers free savings accounts for children that feature no fees
or minimum balance requirements. The credit union will provide the first $2
deposit for each student who opens an account and students may then deposit as
little as one cent at a time, to ensure that all students can participate,
regardless of their family finances. One day a week will be designated as
“credit union day” in the schools when students can make transactions, and
fifth-grade students will learn real-world job skills working in the school
credit union.

Atomic Credit Union President and CEO
Tom Griffiths told the local Telegram newspaper, "For our
children to be growing up and experiencing the worst economic times our country
has seen since the Great Depression, I cannot think of a better ‘educational
vehicle’ than that of a student-run financial institution."

Around the state, student-run credit
unions are helping students learn to manage their money. Some high school
branches offer virtually all of the services of traditional credit union
branches. The FirstDay Financial Federal Credit Union branch at Miami Valley Career Technology Center in
Dayton is open two full days per week. Student members can open accounts, make
deposits, cash checks, and apply for ATM and debit cards, as well as a special
“young adult” credit card. Additionally, they can make Visa payments and sign
up for direct deposit and e-statements at the student branch and have access to
an ATM onsite at the school.

Credit unions are assisting schools in other ways to help
teach their students financial literacy skills. For example the Ohio Credit
Union League has a free website ( where teachers can
access financial education lessons to teach in the classroom, elementary
through high school. (Ohio requires schools to integrate the study of economics
and financial literacy into social studies curriculum.)

“Credit unions firmly believe financial education is a true
pathway to financial success. Two out of every three credit unions in the state
offer some sort of financial education, and many partner with local schools to
create programs that help students learn the difference between wants and
needs, how to create a budget, and how to save. Instilling these values early
give students a greater chance to thrive financially,” said Patrick Harris,
director of media and public relations for the league.

With the average American household
carrying more than $10,000 in credit card debt and most college
graduates leaving schools with $25,000 in student-loan debt, teaching money
management at a young age is certainly a smart idea. Ideally more partnerships
like these will emerge around the state.

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