A.R. Rucker unveils new credit union/store

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Grant teaches middle schoolers business skills, value of saving

By Reece Murphy

Reece Murphy
It’s a fairly-well accepted fact that some lessons are learned best through experience.
Take working for a living, for example. Nothing beats on-the-job training.
Saving money is something you learn through doing or not at all.
At A.R. Rucker Middle School, educators are helping student learn both lessons first hand with the help of Founders Federal Credit Union and its No Small Change program.
Thanks to a $3,000 grant from FFCU, students are now learning how to run a business in a real school store and how to save money through a real in-school credit union.
The school and credit union rolled out the program with fanfare Friday, Sept. 21, during a school-wide assembly in the gymnasium.
“The store is called the Ram’s Den and that’s Founders Corner,” said sixth-grade teacher and program coordinator Blanche Bruce as she pointed to the teller station set up on one corner of blue and white school-colored store.
“This is completely student run,” she said. “We’re the second middle school in the state to do this ... the first middle school in this school district.”
Bruce said she and A.R. Rucker principal Phillip Mickles applied for the grant after visiting the combination credit union/store at Banks Trail Middle School in Fort Mill.
The Ram’s Den offers everything from pencils and binders to erasers and koosh balls, as well as spirit items such as school T-shirts and sweatshirts. The students operate the cash register, keep, track and order inventory and work sales out on the floor.
The credit union is a real, deposit-accepting credit union, with students accepting money as tellers, recording transactions and balancing the books at the end of the day. The deposits are then collected once a week and deposited in the students’ accounts.
Every time students make five deposits, they win their choice of free items choosing from such middle school items such as Rams-colored ear bud headphones, color-changing water bottles or music cards for five free song downloads.
Bruce said the sixth-, seventh and eighth-grade students who work in the credit union and the store, most, but not all of whom are Beta Club members, had to fill out applications, complete with four references, and go through a job interview – just like in the real world.
Bruce said the reaction from shoppers and employees alike had been great.
Seventh-grader Kristian Howard, who works as a store cashier and credit union teller, said she thinks this job will better prepare her for a “real job” in the future while her savings will help her if she ever has a “rainy day.”
“I save half of my allowance,” Howard said. “Which is good because I’m a spender, not a saver.”
Bruce said the goal is teaching students different aspects of financial literacy through the two sides of the program: Financial responsibility through money management on the business side and financial responsibility through savings on the credit union side.
“If they start good financial habits in middle school, and they see how it builds through savings, then they’ll want to continue it through high school, then college ... and on into their adult lives,” she said.
Founders Federal Credit Union Community Relations Coordinator Brian Bass heads up the program for the financial institution.
Bass said the A.R. Rucker program is an outgrowth of credit union programs already in place at Brooklyn Springs, Clinton, Discovery School, Erwin, Heath Springs and North elementary schools in the county. Another is set to open at Indian Land Elementary next semester.
He said the credit union/school store program grew from the realization of the importance of keeping middle schoolers engaged.
Bass said the program’s mission is multi-faceted though all centered on a vision of helping students save money from elementary school all the way through high school so that when they graduate, they’ll have both solid savings and a good financial education.
“One great thing is that we can go in and use this program to start relationships and partnerships with these schools,” Bass said. “We can even bring in a number of employees through our speakers bureau, who can talk about any financial topic that teachers want to teach their students about.
“It’s really about teaching students life skills, that’s the main purpose behind the program,” he said. “And hopefully through this process, we can gain their loyalty and build that relationship from a young age, so hopefully, when they’re older and want to buy a car or a home, they’ll feel comfortable with us and come to us for service to fit their needs.”
Mickles thanked Founders and said it was a perfect opportunity for students to learn important lessons in life. “We want to teach to the whole child and this is showing students the importance of being financially responsible,” Mickles said.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151.