Some of the fourth-grade students at Oakdale and Independence elementary schools won't be overdrafting their bank accounts anytime soon.
That's because Family Trust Federal Credit Union has started a mock credit union which teaches the young students how to manage money in one class at each of those schools.
Students earn credit union bucks, which are similar to Monopoly money, for good behavior. Every other week, representatives from Family Trust help the students deposit the bucks into their mock accounts.
Students log their transactions in a register and can write checks to purchase hard-earned prizes at the Family Trust general store.
"It's a great opportunity for the students, not only for their behavior, but also giving them the real-life experiences of handling their money and saving it," said Oakdale Principal Neil McVann.
'It makes you want to save'
The program has given students like 9-year-old Anna Lucas a new understanding of the value of money.
"It makes you want to save things so you can buy things," said Lucas, who saved her credit union bucks to buy a satin pillow with a dragonfly to hang on her door.
The in-school credit union teaches students the basics of how a checking account works and also helps with math skills, such as adding and subtracting.
"It goes hand in hand with what they have to do academically, just in a fun way," said Oakdale teacher Laura Haun.
Family Trust worked with the Rock Hill school district to make sure the program aligned with South Carolina's academic standards for money and math.
"Anything we can do to support instruction, to give students a real-life connection to what they learn, I think improves understanding," said Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability.
David Casey, vice president of business development at Family Trust, said he hopes to expand the credit union program into other schools. Right now, only one class each at Oakdale and Independence is participating.
"Financial literacy and financial management is so important with our society," Casey said. "As our society ages, it's that much more important for kids to understand and appreciate financial matters."