On Thursdays, Schenectady High School senior Myia Collins gets her paycheck from working at Five Guys, and on Friday she goes to her closest First New York Federal Credit Union branch and deposits it.
“I come every Friday,” Collins said as she made her most recent deposit.
“Every single Friday,” teller Laquasia Jenkins confirmed.
But Collins doesn’t have to go to one of the credit union’s branches in Niskayuna, Glenville, Albany or Rotterdam, because she has a branch conveniently located where she spends so much of her time — at school.
For the past 10 years, the credit union has had a branch inside Schenectady High School, a place for students to open accounts and for teachers to deposit checks and take withdrawals of up to $100. Staffed by student tellers and overseen by a credit union employee, the school branch serves as both an opportunity for students to gain practical experience and to serve teachers’ and students’ basic banking needs.
With school administrators and credit union staff on hand, the branch celebrated its 10th anniversary Friday with cake, pizza and business as usual.
“If you are in class it’s theoretical, and students learn better when it’s a hands-on type of experience,” said Diane Allegro, business education teacher and the school adviser for the bank program.
The credit union has a total of six school branches — in Schenectady, Mohonasen, Schoharie, Duanesburg, Albany and Scotia-Glenville schools. But Schenectady was the first school branch opened by the credit union that was formed in 1937 under the name Schenectady Teachers Federal Credit Union.
The Schenectady school branch is open Friday afternoons. Since it opened in October for this school year, student tellers have processed over 200 transactions and helped open nearly 30 new accounts.
“I didn’t think of it as community service or volunteer work,” said senior Christina Lachman, who has worked as a student teller for three years. “I thought of it as a job that was teaching me something new.”
The credit union promises to deposit the first $5 into a student’s new account, so they don’t need any money on hand to open an account. Students can also accumulate points for each transaction they make and earning good grades; the points can be exchanged for prizes like $50 preloaded debit cards and gift certificates.
The program can also be a gateway to post-graduation jobs with the credit union. Palwasha Sehat, who worked at the school branch as a student, is now an accountant with the bank. Norm Belmar, who serves as the bank’s adviser at the school branch, said he didn’t work there as a student but wishes he had.
“This is where all the magic happens,” Belmar said as he stood in the small office with a single cash register that serves as the credit union branch.
“There is no reason not to open an account,” Belmar said, listing the student incentives and no-cost start. “Once you’ve come here, you’re already building a relationship with a financial institution.”