Tess Vigeland: It's one thing for a teenager to have a savings account. It's another to want to sign up their entire school for one. Several high school students in South Florida have made that their mission.
Karen Burkett of station WLRN tells us about their entry into the bank business.
Karen Burkett: High school kids are running a new credit union on campus in Riviera Beach, Fla. There's even an ATM in the atrium now. Their school, Suncoast Community High, is a place with plenty of high achievers. Newsweek Magazine places Suncoast as the ninth best high school in the country.
For two months now, teenagers have filled out applications at a table in the corner of the school cafeteria. Aaron Goldstein is president of Suncoast High's economics club. He's 16. He showed me how things worked.
Aaron Goldstein: And then we'll have, usually the two people working here and we have the different paperwork...
He's just a kid, sure. But he and 19 other teenagers passed the same tests grown-ups have to to get into the bank business. They finished complicated coursework on bank finance law. Now, they're qualified to sign other kids up to become members of the credit union.
Goldstein: And in a couple of weeks, they'll get their debit card in the mail and they're set. They can start banking.
Students need only $5 to bank with the Gold Coast Federal Credit Union. Parents co-sign applications so the students can be approved. Remember, credit unions are non-profits. They typically charge lower and fewer fees than banks.
Tazeen Rashid is the teacher who brought both the credit union and personal finance education to the school.
Tazeen Rashid: I was just asking some of my students today -- they're going to college and they're seniors -- how much do you know about financial management and one of them said, "I don't know anything" It's something which is very dormant and it needs to be awakened.
In another four years, those same kids will graduate from college. Right now, the average college grad accumulates $24,000 in student loans.
Harriet Johnson Brackey is a financial planner at the Enrichment Group in Miami.
Harriet Johnson Brackey: I like the idea that the kids are having a real life experience of handling their own money, making their own decisions and realizing the consequences of it.
Real life means saving, spending and withdrawing from the ATM.
Carlton Bone is a freshman who trained for one of the volunteer credit union jobs. He's 15 years old. If you'd asked him before the training, he would have told you he was a saver.
Carlton Bone: No, to be honest, I wasn't. It's not easy saving money. It's definitely hard to be patient with yourself to store the money and to not take it out on a whim.
The school wants to teach students about smart personal finance. The credit union wants to teach personal finance too, but it also wants students here at Suncoast to become lifelong credit union members.
Rob Delaney is the CEO.
Rob Delaney: You know, sometimes we tend to sometimes forget what period of time they grew up in and, you know, they're becoming extremely responsible.
And that's the greater goal: Developing the next generation of adults who know how to save.
In Riviera Beach, Fla., I'm Karen Burkett for Marketplace Money.
Vigeland: The idea of School Savings Banks go way back, as far as the 1880s in this country. We've got a history on our Makin' Money blog.
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