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Students get to handle the green

Sarah Board, left, and Alexis Beller help Lee Ann Simonelli cash her paycheck at the Kitsap Credit Union Branch in Bremerton High School. The branch has been open for a month, and serves students with all their banking needs. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Sarah Board, left, and Alexis Beller help Lee Ann Simonelli cash her paycheck at the Kitsap Credit Union Branch in Bremerton High School. The branch has been open for a month, and serves students with all their banking needs.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Brittani Erickson is so happy with her new job, she actually sees it rubbing off on the rest of her life.

Since Kitsap Credit Union opened a functional branch inside Bremerton High School on March 6, Erickson and nine of her classmates have had the opportunity to dress, think and handle money like a teller.

They went through an application process just like any other potential employee for the credit union. The only difference is they get school credit instead of a paycheck.

The idea to make a branch available to students and staff inside the high school came from principal Chris Thompson in October 2001.

“In our training,” Erickson said, “We had a class on how to greet people. So even outside of work, it can help me be a little more patient with people and their personalities.”

She has savored the opportunity to help her peers make deposits and withdrawals, open accounts and even apply for loans.

“It is fun having your buddies come up and withdraw money,” said DJ Manning, a tall junior at Bremerton High School. He was pacing outside the branch with a bronze name tag on, handing out fliers.

“It is just fun getting to actually handle money,” he said with a wide grin. “You feel responsible about it.”

Manning wants to be a lawyer someday, and he thinks the people skills he is learning at the credit union now may pay off later.

The students at the branch generally gain a sense of pride within their first month of work, said Cathy Brorson, a marketing specialist for Kitsap Credit Union.

“Their shoulders are back, they stand up straight and they are smiling,” she said. “They know what they are doing is beneficial.”

While Brorson monitored the activities at the branch last Tuesday, student Lee Ann Simonelli approached the window to deposit a check.

“Instead of rushing after school you can just come here,” she said after her transaction. “It is really easy.”

Before the branch opened, Simonelli travelled immediately after the last bell to an East Bremerton branch. She had to hurry to be on time for her job at Subway. Sometimes she would wait 15 minutes in line, but the new high school branch cuts that obstacle out of her life.

“I think it has really changed the way I think about the business world,” said Sarah Board, a junior at Bremerton High. She was busy working at the register.

“I didn’t realize how important it is to provide for the future,” she said.

Besides learning how to handle money, students in Madonna Hanna’s and Brian Webb’s marketing classes have been learning about other money issues like budgeting, credit, financial planning, savings and investing.

Ron Rogerson is the vice president of marketing at the Kitsap Credit Union and facilitated an advertising and marketing class at the high school.

“I was impressed with the quality of the questions,” he said. “In the past I have noticed that the quality of the questions was not as in-depth.”

Sue Longstreth is the director of career and technical education for the Bremerton School District.

She appreciates the credit union because it provides students with career opportunities in the banking industry.

“The kids understand that there is a connection with what they are learning in school and the workplace. They need to understand there isn’t a big division,” Longstreth said.

Over the last four years, she has noticed that more kids at the high school are asking smarter questions and becoming more focused about their future.

“One of the things that has always bothered me is when I talk to seniors two weeks before they graduate and I ask them what they are going to do next year, and they have no clue.”

Longstreth has noticed students who come from more stable, affluent backgrounds are “real focused.”

“The ones I worry about are the ones that come from single parent families,” she said.

During the nearly five years that Longstreth has held her position, she has seen many students participate in successful off-site internships at a variety of businesses. She knows that getting them in situations where they can learn in a real-life job atmosphere gives them more hope for their futures.

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