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Credit union’s financial literacy sessions meet students where they are

Kent ISD — Ginger Bosscher picked through a stack of simulated personal documents and chose the ones she thought she’d need to show a bank to open a savings account.

Next, the Kent Transition Center junior presented each item to “the teller,” played by Aldina Babic, Lake Michigan Credit Union community relations manager.

Driver’s license: check.

Student ID and passport: Both would also work, without a driver’s license.

Social security card: Ginger didn’t need the card itself – that’s best left in a safe place, Babic told her – but she would have to know her number.

Five dollars cash: Yes, the minimum required to open an account.

Aaaand scene.

Was that stressful? Babic asked. Ginger shook her head “no.” 

Being prepared makes banking go smoothly, explained Zeeland LMCU Branch Manager Brad DeRoo, much like all money matters, where knowledge is key to avoiding common mistakes and making informed decisions.

LMCU recently wrapped up a series of four financial literacy sessions with KTC students. Besides basic bank transactions, topics included personal budgeting and credit scores. What students learn aligns with the math curriculum, and typically includes a branch visit.

As part of their learning, students consider actual costs of items and lifestyles they might want, and why building credit can be valuable and common pitfalls to avoid.

Babic said the goal is to teach students how to have a healthy relationship with money, since personal finance is not universally taught in all schools or at home. LMCU also has presented to students at Rockford, East Kentwood and Hamilton high schools.

Students had several questions when the credit session ended. Junior Lorenzo Fonseca wanted to know the best purchases to make when building credit. Their answer: items already in your budget that you know you can pay, such as gas and groceries.

Juniors Hawraa Al-Chlaihawi, left, and Caitlyn Blanco, give different answers to the question ‘Does the type of debt you have affect your credit score?’

Another student asked for the best website to check one’s credit score. That’s important, DeRoo said, because many sites that offer it for free will in turn sell your data to potential creditors. 

Junior Tayton Scott wanted to know where reminders to pay bills on time come from. Babic said some creditors send payment due notices via paper mail, email or text, but ultimately, it’s up to every borrower to keep track on their own.

Toni Verburg, KTC math support specialist, said their partnership with LMCU is about seven years old. 

“It’s especially important for these students, because next year our seniors will go out to job sites and will be getting paychecks,” she said. Whether students go right into the workforce after high school or go onto college first, “our focus is on training them to make good financial choices when starting their working career. Hopefully they hear something that reminds them when the time comes.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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