Job skills in the bank at Harding High

Bruce Thao, 16, a Harding High junior, tells his friends about the benefits of opening a savings account. Harding High School now has a credit union within its walls, located in the cafeteria. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Credit Union at school is only the fourth in the state

It’s not every day that you stroll into a high school and find a credit union.

In fact, in Minnesota, it’s pretty rare -- Harding High School is only the fourth high school in the state to have a credit union within its walls.

The small branch facility just went in and is run by St. Paul Federal Credit Union. It sits on the edge of Harding’s cafeteria, and offers a full range of banking services – everything from opening an account, doing a check deposit and withdrawing cash to issuing auto loans.

The school removed a small section of wall in the cafeteria and added a small room where the branch is located, with a window opening out into the cafeteria.

The construction happened thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation.

It’s open only during lunches at Harding, and is staffed by students and one full-time staff person who coordinates the in-school bank program. The students get paid $7.50 an hour.

“Better than fast food”

Harding junior Bruce Thao, 16, said he’s getting the hang of the new job at the bank branch, and said it’s a step up from a past job.

“It’s better than fast food ... that’s for sure,” he said.

Thao said he’s had a number of students come up to him and ask about opening an account, although the branch has not yet set up any.

And his friends are coming by to see if they can answer the weekly financial trivia question, in hopes of winning a prize.

Thao was also pleased that among the first accounts at the school would be principal Doug Revsbeck.

“I’m ready to take the plunge,” Revsbeck said.

Revesbeck plans to sign up for an account during the official grand opening of the credit union branch, which takes place Tuesday, March 4.

Though he was glad the financial services would be available for employees, “it’s more for the students,” he noted.


Mitch Myre, a vice president at St. Paul Federal Credit Union, said the financial institution has been plugged in with St. Paul Public Schools for five years, starting with Como High School.

In the fall of 2012 the credit union launched a pilot branch at Como.

Myre said expanding into the East Side school “seemed like an obvious next step.”

Jerry Utech, the Harding teacher who coordinates between the school and St. Paul Federal Credit Union, sees the partnership as an asset to the school.

It’s a way for students to get used to the sight of a bank, even if they don’t end up joining the credit union at the school, he said.

“(The credit union’s) interest is in helping students learn about money management,” Utech said.

Youth job skills

Utech found a handful of students and encouraged them to apply, after which they got interviews, and three of the six landed jobs.

“They’re very diligent about their work,” Utech said. And “they understand the importance of privacy.”

They also take turns working Saturdays at the credit union’s main branch at 1330 Conway St., gaining further work experience.

Utech helps kids plug into a variety of jobs, including through the Genesys Works program. Through that program, the school has 18 kids working at 3M, learning information technology skills. He’s also working with kids at places ranging from Taco Bell to a chiropractic clinic. He says finding jobs for them can be a challenge, with lower-skill jobs that used to go to high school students now going to adults.

That’s why assets like the credit union are so important, he said. They’re a way for students to gain work skills early on.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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