Early Savers

Mini Modeltowner Student Credit Union begins

From left, Gilbert Elementary School fifth-graders Mykal Roggenbuch, Alex Jayne and Skylar Spencer work at the Mini Modeltowner Student Credit Union on Friday at the school. Students run the operation. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)


Journal Staff Writer

GWINN — Students at Gilbert Elementary School are learning to handle their finances, and that doesn’t necessarily entail dropping coins into a piggy bank.

Some kids have started actual bank accounts.

Students lined up Friday morning at the new Mini Modeltowner Student Credit Union, which was set up through Honor Credit Union.

Jamie Gollakner, manager of Honor Credit Union’s Gwinn branch, supervised Friday’s financial session.

Gilbert fifth-graders, though, performed the actual hands-on work — taking deposit/withdrawal slips, counting change and balancing the morning’s finances.

They also had to “apply” for the teller positions.

That’s partly what makes it a student credit union, which the students run.

“It’s just giving them real cash-handling skills,” Gollakner said.

Kids come into the credit union area, which is located at the elementary school, and give their money to the tellers. They then receive white deposit/withdrawal slips — which come with the tagline “Start Small, Save Big” — while the tellers keep the corresponding yellow slips to make the correct balances at the end of the session.

What also makes the effort unique is that the school isn’t in charge of the money.

“It’s actually an Honor Credit Union account, so they’re able to keep it going throughout the summer, and then start next year, because this is not just a one-year thing or a couple months,” Gollakner said. “Hopefully this will just keep on going year after year.”

Every time a youngster makes a deposit, be it 25 cents or a $20 bill, they can take home a small toy from a nearby bin.

“The students are able to go and grab maybe a bookmark, a pencil, a ruler,” Gollakner said.

Honor Credit Union now operates two student credit unions in the Upper Peninsula, the other being at Birchview Elementary School in Ishpeming.

Gilbert fourth-grader Maddie Kossow, who already has a few bucks in her account, likes the new credit union.

“It’s not like taking all your money away,” Maddie said. “It’s like saving your money.”

Adults are on board with kids learning saving skills at a young age.

At the recent grand opening of the Mini Modeltowner Student Credit Union, state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, presented a special tribute to Gilbert to highlight the important life skills and financial literacy students will learn.

The credit union’s opening also received congressional recognition from U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-1st District.

Also at the grand opening were Karen Anderson, Bergman’s director of constituent relations; Gwinn Area Community Schools Superintendent Sandy Petrovich; Forsyth Township Supervisor Joe Boogren; Marquette County Commissioner Bill Nordeen; state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette; former state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; and state Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.

Gilbert Principal Marci Paulsen also agrees with the concept.

“It’s definitely real-world learning,” Paulsen said after Friday’s session. “All the kids are excited, from kindergarten all the way to the fifth-grade workers.”

The student credit union will be open to Gilbert students from 8 to 8:25 a.m. every Friday.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.