DHS is banking on real-life experience in business

DHS students preparing to open the school’s first bank branch.

After 32 years in the restaurant and motel business, now teacher Lisa Bourg decided, “Let’s just do it,” on taking her economic lessons from the textbook to real life.

St. Charles Parish School District (SCPPS) officials agreed.

“We feel that providing opportunities and skills in financial literacy is extremely important in helping our students become responsible, productive citizens,” said Ken Oertling, district executive director of secondary schools.

In addition to in-class instruction on financial literacy, the school district is partnering with Total Choice Credit (TTCU) to provide high school students with a hands-on experience in a financial setting for the purpose of promoting financial practices, a real life educational environment, and creating a generation of savers who make sound financial decisions.

Bourg was thrilled with the opportunity to develop a vision for the branch with Mary Vedros, CEO of TTCU, and determine how it would fit in her General COOP class.

“This branch will be operated by students, for students, teachers and staff,” Oertling said. “We cannot wait to see its functionality and impact it has on Destrehan High School so that we can potentially add one to Hahnville High School as well.”

On Sept. 20, a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting will open a Total Choice Credit Union branch in the school as a classroom. Two weeks later, DHS Pawprints, a print shop, also will open there, and the six students in Bourg’s class will work in them. Both are new to the school system.

“I want to show them accountability,” Bourg said. “They will be on a three-strike program. They can be fired.”

The move responds to the public’s increasing call for teaching children a trade, as well as preparing them for college. It aligns partly with the state’s Jump Start high school initiative aimed at revamping the “career diploma” for vocational-technical instruction. In this program, Rhodes said students can earn certifications in areas like welding, computers and even banking and in some cases college credit through these classes.

It was Bourg’s own business background that drove the point home about the need to give her students practical experience.

“I want to show them accountability. They will be on a three-strike program. They can be fired.” – Lisa Bourg

“I want to get this to our youth now,” she said. “It was difficult getting that mindset, ‘Yes, this is your job. You need to be here and on time.’ As a boss, it’s ‘Why do I need you?’ We have to change that mindset, but there’s a good bit of them who don’t get it.’”

She added, “I’m hoping these classes will get them thinking on ‘Why I can’t keep changing jobs every few weeks.’ I’m hoping to teach these kids that they have to go to work.”

At the DHS bank branch, students will actually run it with supervision by Total Choice Credit Union, which proposed the concept.

Total Choice CEO Mary Vedros said the partnership will be beneficial across the board.

“We are super excited about this opportunity to invest in the youth of this wonderful parish,” Vedros said. “And to be able to partner with the SCPPS is an added plus. Equipping students with the knowledge they will need to venture out after graduation with financial literacy under their belts and how to conduct financial transactions is our goal. We will strive every day to make their financial lives the best they can be.”

Bourg said they will work in two-student shifts as a full service branch to both students and staff during lunch hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. An ATM is available on campus 24/7.

The students will alternate working at the bank and print shop once it opens.

“We’re going to make this successful one way or another,” Bourg said. “These students will be handling money and credit, but not people’s personal information.”

Two of the six students interned at Total Choice Credit Union this summer and will train fellow students.

Also, PawPrints will operate just like a full service shop like Kinko’s or FedEx soon after the bank branch is up and running, she said. The same six students also will work this shop making items like posters, magnets or bumper stickers.

Bourg said the students are excited about it, but the plan is aimed at teaching them work ethic, dedication to work and reversing the many negatives employers have developed hiring younger workers.

“When you’re talking to students about entrepreneurship and enterprise, they don’t grasp the concept just by books,” she said. “We’re not just going to teach it, we’re going to do it.”

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