VyStar Credit Union, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is proactively empowering youths to take control of their finances and establish a strong financial future. There are numerous ways the financial institution, established in 1952, is committed to offering its members a financial education to set them up for success from a young age.
VyStar offers youth checking accounts to encourage youngsters to form smart financial habits. It also created the High School Branch Program, available at 18 high schools, to help accomplish its goals. The specialized program allows students to experience the day-to-day functions of their high schools’ branches. Their schools’ career academy instructors oversee the program.
The High School Branch Program began in 2006. It’s constructed to teach young people important financial skills, including budgeting, saving, and how to borrow responsibly. It’s an excellent way for juveniles to get hands-on experience and learn the ins and outs of money management services such as loans, budgets, credit cards, and investment accounts. The program also instills valuable skills that can put participants on the inside track to a future in the financial industry.
How the High School Branches Impact Young People
VyStar’s High School Branch Program has a positive impact on the participants. Students can develop confidence while establishing valuable personal and professional skills. The credit union is committed to giving teens the resources they need to make wise financial decisions and reach their goals.
Since its inception, it’s provided more than 1,800 paid internships and supplied financial education to more than 106,000 high school students across northeast Florida. This is what a few participants have to say about the program:
“This program provides a safe and educational spot for anyone who chooses to be in it. I will forever and always be so thankful for this opportunity,” stated Aspyn M., who participated for two years at Middleburg High School in Middleburg, Florida.
Aspyn continued, “It has taught me so many skills I didn’t know I needed and sparked my inspiration to work in the business field. Throughout the program, you get to build an unforgettable bond with fellow interns, coordinators, and teachers that will last a lifetime.”
Lydia L. of Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, Florida, learned essential financial habits through the program. “I use this information constantly in my own life and as I help members, passing that knowledge forward,” stated Lydia.
Manal L., an Orange Park High School student, stated, “Working at VyStar impacted me in the best way possible. The High School Branch Program has introduced me to new people and helped me understand how to manage my money.”
VyStar Academy of Business High School Branch Program won the 2019 Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award from the Credit Union National Association. “We are proud to honor the 2019 CUNA Award recipients for the exceptional member services they provide to their members on a daily basis. Their commitment to the credit union philosophy of people helping people is an active demonstration of our cooperative superpowers at work,” stated Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association.
In 2022, the financial institution introduced the High School Debit Card Give Back Program, which offers co-branded debit cards to the high schools participating in the Branch Program. Every time a participant uses the co-branded debit card, the credit union gives 5 cents to that school. It donates up to $10,000 each school year. Any credit union member with a personal checking account can request one of the school-branded debit cards. These are some ways the financial institution strives to build better, stronger communities where its members live.
The credit union donated $31,061.15 to the 18 high schools that participated in the program’s inaugural year. Chad Meadows, the executive vice president and chief operations officer, stated, “We are incredibly grateful for everyone who shares in our commitment to support students and educators in our communities and helped make the first year of this program such a success.”
The top five schools were Bartram Trail High School, West Nassau High School, Fleming Island High School, Palatka High School, and Pedro Menendez High School. “We are so proud of the schools in our High School Branch Program, and we know these funds will be put to great use,” said Michael Rathjen, vice president of school programs. “It’s exciting to know how popular these debit cards have become. This is only the first year of our Give Back Program, and we look forward to donating even more money to our school partners in the future.”
Meadows continued, “This program is meant to be an opportunity for students, teachers, alumni, and anyone with pride in their neighborhood school to make a difference through their everyday purchases. We encourage anyone who is interested in participating to get involved.”
Free Courses Through VyStar University
The credit union’s primary goal is to give its members useful knowledge of money matters, because it understands that people who make sound financial decisions are happier with their financial situations. That’s why it created VyStar University to provide its members with even more economic knowledge.
The university provides a free financial education via eight online courses designed for teens and college students. The eight courses cover a range of topics that focus on earning an income, buying goods and services, saving, using credit, borrowing, financial investing, protecting and insuring, and the advantages of credit unions. There’s no limit to the number of courses one can take.
However, the university is not just for young people and students. It can also help experienced adults and professionals better understand their finances. The courses are one of the ways the credit union is making it fun and easy to get a better grasp on money matters. Each class takes 30 to 45 minutes and include animated videos and infographics. Participants can save their progress and pause the course to return at a later time. Don’t stress — there’s no major exam at the end of the course, but a few short quizzes are worked into the program so you can test your knowledge.
An online course is an excellent choice for anyone looking to improve their financial knowledge and establish good money management habits. It’s an exceptional way to help people set achievable financial goals and better decision-making skills. It’s also a great way to learn more about the financial institution’s products and services and how to get the most out of them.