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Canton Charter Student-run Credit Union Provides Real-world Experiences

Fifth and seventh graders at Canton Charter Academy help operate the school’s student-run credit union with the help of Community Financial Credit Union Education Partnership Coordinator Austin Golles. The partnership with Community Financial was established this year when Principal Jennifer Conley brought the idea with her from her previous school, Achieve Charter Academy.
Community Financial Credit Union staff had an information table at the beginning of the year school event where parents could pick up the account application needed to open an account in their scholar’s name. The school credit union opens one day a month to take deposits. At Canton Charter Academy, there are currently 25 open and active accounts and an average of $200 is deposited monthly.
“Students had to apply and interview to get their ‘jobs’ with Community Financial,” Fifth-Grade Teacher Laura Ewell said. “This process was an important step as it caused them to invest in their position and really take pride in this responsibility they were given. The students all have various roles in the process of preparing for and executing the deposit days. This experience gives them a taste of ‘real life’ work and is contributing wonderfully to their growing as responsible citizens.”

One dollar bill
There are currently 25 open and active student accounts and an average of $200 is deposited monthly.

The credit union students have work schedules as well; each fifth-grade room of employees gets to work three credit union deposit days during the year, while the two seventh grade class employees participate in four each.
“I have a few students who bring in money each time,” Fifth-Grade Teacher Hannah Bergeson said. “A few have told me what their total savings are this year and what they are saving their money for. It is good for them to set a long-term goal and slowly watch themselves achieve it.
“This is teaching them good life skills that extend beyond the classroom. For the student workers, they are learning how to have a job. They had to apply, interview, and get trained before they were able to participate in the credit union. Students who are saving are learning goal setting and working hard to achieve that goal.”
Besides Canton Charter Academy, Community Financial Credit Union works with a few other National Heritage Academy schools. There is a student-run credit union at Achieve Charter Academy, South Canton Scholars Charter Academy, and Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy. Also, Golles has presented at Canton Prep High School. In total, Community Financial operates 52 student-run credit unions across multiple districts.

 Community Financial logo
Fifth and seventh graders at Canton Charter Academy help operate the school’s student-run credit union with the help of Community Financial Credit Union Education Partnership Coordinator Austin Golles.
“Community Financial has always held community involvement/financial education as our core values, and as a credit union we put a particular focus on giving back to the schools, and educating students about money from elementary until high school when they move into their adult lives,” Golles said.
“We have a team of 11 that does this work with the main goal of teaching both student workers how to apply and work for a job, as well as teach students how saving money for the things we really want is a great tool for the future. We also do a variety of classroom presentations about money concepts. The overall goal is to bring that financial education to school in whatever way best works for the staff and students.”
Great partnerships help our scholars learn and have real-world experiences.
“I know we don’t physically go to deposit cash at the bank very often anymore,” Conley said. “Not many of us do that still, but the idea behind it really is saving your money, and how to create a savings program. The students become familiar a little bit with the process and what it means to deposit your money into a bank.”

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About Canton Charter Academy
Canton Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Canton, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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