iQ Credit Union has a “uniQue” student outreach program at high schools for providing financial education and opportunities within the school system.
“We’ve always been involved in financial education in some way, but in 1996, a high school accounting teacher, interested in the students’ financial literacy, suggested that her students start a business,” said iQ Credit Union Senior VP of Marketing Danette LaChapelle. “The students opened an iQ branch in their school, and created business and marketing plans for it.”
Since then, the program has grown from school to school, all by request — the schools come to iQ Credit Union and ask to have a branch at their high school. Currently, there are six such branches in Clark County at various high schools, including Battle Ground, Evergreen, Skyview, Union, Camas and Mountain View.
The branches are open one to two hours per day, during the lunch hours, giving students a half-hour at a teller station and a half-hour in the classroom.
“When the campus branches are set up at the schools, they have a branch manager, but the students take ‘ownership’ of their branch,” said Tim Walley, iQ education program supervisor. “iQ provides them that space and mentorship. It’s a lot of fun. The students take on leadership roles.”
At any campus branch, there are several different roles, including campus branch manager; marketing; tellers who handle transactions and accounts; and alternative positions, like scheduled cleaning and signage for promotions. Campus branch managers open and close the branch, and team lead for the group; marketing promotes the campus branch. For example, Evergreen High School made a commercial for marketing their campus branch, doing the filming and incorporating their choir into it.
“The campus branches send their marketing plan to the iQ marketing department which approves them; in this case, iQ is their client, their marketing guide,” Walley said.
iQ Credit Union also offers internships. There are 12 available internship positions, which are currently filled. And students who are in the class program at the end of a school year can apply for a summer internship if there are positions available. During the internships, students work in the main branches and are paid for that. They do an expanded list of financial transactions.
Some students stay on while at college, working summers. Others become regular employees. Currently, iQ Credit Union has 20 employees who started at a campus branch.
iQ also holds Financial Literacy Fairs, which help students gain an understanding of the realities of their current and future finances. At the fair, students choose a hypothetical career from 180 possible careers, and based on the average net take-home pay for that job, they learn about budgeting and expenses in the real world. iQ sets up booths where students can spend that take-home pay — the students learn how they want to spend their money and on what. As part of that experience, iQ also sets up a Wheel of Life, which students spin, presenting them with a hypothetical something good or something bad, like a flat tire they suddenly have to be able to pay for with those earnings. It gives them a snapshot of their potential finances. The fair also informs them about how many years of extra schooling they might need for a career, as well as how much financial aid.
The iQ Campus Branch Program gives students hands-on experience, an opportunity in a school setting. In addition to the banking experience, it teaches them how to communicate, how to apply for a job and how to handle themselves (to dress appropriately, for example) – knowledge they can take into any job or position.
“The side benefit is that what they learn sticks with them,” LaChapelle said. “Students see how what they learn in school has application in the real world, and the value of it to their future life and career. It’s also a tangible benefit for their other classes, applying those skills to other classes and helping them pull together other things they’re learning in other life situations.”
What’s it like being a student enrolled in the iQ Campus Branch class? Two students who are currently enrolled in the class answered some questions about being involved with the program.
VBJ: What motivated you to take the class?
Jared: I saw signs in the hallway and asked about it and heard that I could end up working at one of the main branches one day. So, that’s what basically got me.
Marcie: There were many things that motivated me to take the class. A friend of mine was currently in the class, as well as the intern at the Battle Ground Branch for a couple years. She talked to me about it, advised me to just try it out and see if it I liked it. I also wanted to become better at balancing cash and have a little more knowledge in the financial world.
VBJ: What do you like best about the class?
Jared: I like the opportunities that are available to each student. There are different jobs in the Campus Branch as well as the Internship possibilities.
Marcie: What I like best about this class is having the opportunity to learn so much. I love being able to bring everything I learn at the campus branch over to the main branch and put it into action there. As well as vice versa. Another thing I love about it is seeing how much of an impact iQ has on our member’s lives. Even if it is as simple as the smile that forms on their face when they walk through the doors. Interacting with the members is definitely a big highlight of this class/internship for me.
VBJ: What was unexpected about the class?
Jared: I thought it would just be the basic transactions that tellers would do but there is so much more at the Campus Branch that you can get exposed to, from opening accounts, sales and marketing.
Marcie: Some things I was not expecting about this class/internship was the sales aspect of it. I was expecting to just be doing the day-to-day transactions for members, but there is so much more to helping those members out.
VBJ: What do you think are the top three benefits of the class?
Jared: Learning customer service skills, learning how to manage time well and work well under pressure, and the fact that you could land a very good first job.
Marcie: The top three benefits of me taking this class would be getting the experience with customer service, becoming more knowledgeable in the financial world (loans, credit, budgeting, etc.) as well as getting a head start at my future career with the credit union.