OAKDALE, Minn. - In between classes at Tartan High School, the halls fill with students, pleasantries are exchanged and for some it's an moment to get a little cash from the ATM.
"We were the first public high school in Minnesota to have an ATM," smiled Tartan's DECA administrator Craig Spreiter.
He said it took nine years worth of convincing to finally give the kids access to cash in the school. That sort of perseverance paid off in dividends Wednesday with the opening of the school's credit union.
"My card just got mailed to me, so that's really exciting," said junior Annelise Wackerfuss.
She's one of the first to become a member of the student run Postal Credit Union or PCU. Wackerfuss deposited a minimum of $1 into a savings account and $50 for a checking account. With her membership she earned a free Subway gift card, all of the opportunities offered to other members, and along the way a lesson in finance.
"Our immediate and long-term goal is to establish a savings-first mentality and financial literacy in students," said Austin Raebel.
Savings first is critical for both students and the credit union. All of the accounts and other transactions require that the students provide the money up front. Students do not receive a thing without putting their own money into the accounts first.
"It's real, but we put a lot of protections in place so that we can teach them how to make the right choices, how to make the right decisions," said Spreiter.
One of those protections is eliminating an overdraft fee. Instead of an overdraft, if the student doesn't have the funds, the transaction simply doesn't go through. The idea is to then sit down with a banker and have a conversation about what's happening with your account, with a strong emphasis on saving.
"Learning how to balance what I get paid, things I need and things I don't," Wackerfuss said as she explained a couple of things she needs to work on.
Tartan High School is one of only three other schools in the state that are doing this sort of thing, but Tartan is the first to have students running the entire operation.
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