May 6, 2016
Community First student tellers – including one former teller – found themselves front and center last week when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker paid a visit to Appleton West HS.
Walker spent more than an hour at Appleton West as part of his support for financial literacy during Money Smart Week Wisconsin. He visited with student tellers for several minutes at the student-run Community First branch in the Appleton West commons before observing and participating in a Personal Financial Management class.
Walker complimented the Appleton Area School District and Community First for being at the forefront of financial literacy efforts by working together to make the class a graduation requirement more than a decade ago. He also praised the importance of Reality Check, a life-like simulation organized by Community First that Appleton high school junior and seniors go through as part of the class.
Important life lessons
“Managing personal finances effectively can go a long way toward creating economic security,” Walker said. That puts Appleton graduates ahead of many students nationwide as well as a lot of adults who maybe never had the opportunity to have a course like this in school, he said.
“What you’re learning in this class may be important not just for your career but your life,” Walker said. “We’re happy to be in Appleton to highlight the efforts being made to provide Wisconsin’s youth with money management skills. This creates a strong foundation for fiscal responsibility throughout the rest of their lives.”
“Gov. Walker emphasized the importance of business and education working together and praised the partnership between Appleton Area School District and Community First that enhances the financial literacy for the students in our community,” said Rita O’Brien, Dean of Career-Based Learning, Appleton Area School District. “We are fortunate to live in a community that so strongly supports educating our students on the importance of financial literacy in their lives.”
Walker said he was impressed with the students working in the Community First branch and with the learning and career opportunities it provides for student tellers in all three Appleton high school credit union branches. Currently, he said there is a “huge demand” for graduates with finance and accounting degrees.
Potential career path
Former student teller Craig Gloudemans, a CFCU accounting manager today, told Gov. Walker and current student tellers that he was a senior at Appleton West in 2001 when he interviewed for and was chosen for the job. That experience helped convince him to study accounting in college instead of engineering.
“To come back to share my story and the importance of financial literacy was special,” Gloudemans said later. “When I was at Appleton West we didn’t have a required personal finance class. I was lucky to have my parents teach me the importance of saving and when it is a good idea to take out a loan versus saving before you buy.”
Gloudemans recalls Community First employees talking to his marketing class about credit unions being member-owned financial cooperatives that were different from for-profit banks, although both offered essentially the same services.
Reality Check 'great tool'
“We didn’t have Reality Check in 2001, which is a great tool used now so students can see what will happen in life, financially, if they chose a certain job when bills and payments come due each month,” he said. “That way they learn: Does their career choice support the bills, activities and lifestyle they envision? The simulation conducted by Community First is quite realistic and assist the students in understanding any changes they might need to make.”
Craig added, “By offering the school credit union branch and Reality Check, I hope students see Community First as a partner early in their financial life and understand the importance of being financially literate.”
Walker said he envisions using the Reality Check model – where students select a career and then use the starting salary income to pay one month’s expenses – to help high school graduates chart a future that does not leave them buried in debt.
State officials hope to learn from graduates of state colleges, universities or technical schools now in the workforce about the cost of their education and their starting pay in their chosen careers.
Armed with those statistics, Walker said students can make the best choices even though pay is certainly not the only factor to consider. “If you know that the career I want pays this amount and college costs this amount, how do I make that work over time? It would be a lot like having an ongoing Reality Check,” Walker said.