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Learning Finances First-Hand

Workers help out with local schools and base activities.

Customers at the commissary branch of the Fort Belvoir Credit Union had to be a little patient last week. Small hands were doling out the money and they needed to make sure that they didn’t make any mistakes.

Under the watchful eye of Credit Union Teller Tameka Quinn and others, five students from Fort Belvoir Elementary School spent about an hour doing hands-on training at the credit union. This is part of an ongoing program undertaken to teach students about banking.

“It’s incredible to see the kids come in and learn about saving money, using a deposit slip and seeing their money grow,” said Judy MacDonald, branch administrator. “We see so many kids who go to college and get into debt because we haven’t taught them how to manage their money. These are things I think we need to educate our children on — the importance of saving.”

In addition to the two field trips to the branch, the sixth-grade bankers work the Dolphin branch that is located at the elementary school. The Dolphin branch is open at the school every Tuesday and Thursday. Any student, teacher or parent can open an account there.

These sixth graders are star math students that are selected every April. They train with the existing bankers to prepare them for their new role the following September. This year’s students are: John Horoho, Elliot Hibbard, Michelle Marrone, Taylor Horne and Shanice Cooper. Rose Acker, sixth-grade counselor, Richard Wong and Millie Sawyer, were also there supporting the students.

“I feel that it’s a wonderful partnership,” said Jane Wilson, principal, Fort Belvoir Elementary School. “We receive wonderful support from the credit union — they support us in any way we ask. It’s an opportunity for students to serve in leadership roles at the school. These students are taking on great responsibility, and learning important lessons.”

After their training, the students were treated to a pizza party for lunch.

“I would encourage any business to partner with schools; the rewards are tremendous,” MacDonald said.

IN ADDITION to working with the students at the elementary school, the credit union also supports the soldiers on base.

“We do as much as we can with the Post,” MacDonald said.

While the credit union is currently limited as to whom they can serve, MacDonald said that they just applied for, and received a whole new segment of underserved customers. These underserved customers do not currently have access to a credit union, but with the introduction of branches north and south of the Post, it will open up a whole new area of banking to lower-income immigrants.

“We’re looking at putting a branch in Gunston and maybe one in Mount Vernon Plaza,” MacDonald said. “We hope to be operational within two years. We’re really excited about it.”

Helping out in another area is Nate Wilson, who serves as the business development manager for the credit union. Every other Friday, Wilson takes time out of his schedule to lecture to one of the business classes at West Potomac. There, he imparts practical knowledge about the business world. Earlier this month, when he met with a class, one of the first questions he asked was, “Why do you want to go into business?” Students gave different responses, but Wilson wrote on the board in big letters: “The only reason to go into business is to make money.” And he went on to explain. He also said that the worst group to deal with is friends and family, and that you should only hire them when it’s really necessary.

Wilson spoke about the tax break advantages you receive as a business person.

“You can write off your gasoline, home office, cell phone and even a business lunch,” Wilson said. “Determine how much money you want to make and go toward that goal. But don’t forget to pay yourself. Don’t give up your dream.”

Wilson then said, “You need to do things with the least amount of money.” One of the things he addressed here was some low-cost ways to market a business, among them using the church bulletin, school newspaper, sports teams or advertising through organizations like the Masons.

“Don’t ever be afraid to ask an organization for money. If you ask not, you have not,” Wilson said. “If they say yes, you’ve hit a home run, if they say no you keep trying.”

Business cards are another important item. “Try to get something to make people remember who you are.”

Wilson then went on to share his knowledge about flyers and other methods of advertising.

“He’s a diamond; he comes in and share with us,” said Daryl Mackey, business teacher at West Potomac.