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A Bright Future Ahead for Middleton High School Branch Interns

Reshma Gali wasn’t sure what to expect as a UW Credit Union intern. “I thought I’d just learn how to work as a teller. But this internship taught me so much more,” says Reshma. “Not only did I learn about working in a financial institution and about professionalism and helping members, but it was the perfect way to learn about personal finance and market research.”

This past year, Middleton High School students were offered a unique opportunity to gain experience in customer service and learn about personal finance, financial education and marketing as UW Credit Union interns. In addition to learning basic tasks like processing banking transactions, interns learn about credit union products and services, including how to promote them to students.

UW Credit Union partnered with Middleton High School to open their first high school branch location in January 2018. The branch provides convenient access to students, staff and their families during the school day. In addition to providing financial education seminars to students, faculty and staff, UW Credit Union employees guide and support Middleton High School’s internship program.

“Our goal is to introduce high school students to financial literacy, so they can learn to be financially productive adults,” says Rob Van Nevel, UW Credit Union executive vice president and chief member solutions officer. “We’ve learned that high school is a great time to introduce financial education topics like budgeting and managing credit.”

Student teller interns who work at the branch serve other students, as well as faculty, and are mentored by teachers. The interns also spend part of their internship serving members at the Middleton Hills branch of UW Credit Union, as well as working on a customized marketing plan to promote UW Credit Union products, services and financial education resources to Middleton High School students.

“Our partnership with Middleton High School is a natural fit, because it allows us to promote our mission of fostering continuous learning to students, who are beginning to learn to manage their finances,” says Jaimes Johnson, UW Credit Union director of community partnerships. “Not only does the Middleton High School internship allow students to experience valuable career lessons, it also teaches them about key topics in financial literacy that will help them manage their financial lives as adults.”

As Reshma prepared for graduation, she decided to apply for the internship to learn about career options and study marketing techniques. “The UW Credit Union Marketing Team gave us the resources to be actively involved, do hands-on learning and make our own conclusions,” says Reshma. “We discovered a lot of high school students don’t know the difference between a credit union and a bank. We decided that this information can be featured in a video, so they can learn how a credit union can benefit them. Students also prefer face-to-face discussions about financial strategies and planning. Banking and financial seminars that are delivered online would be a great technique for marketing to busy students.” 

Andy Chafe applied for the internship to learn more about working in a credit union. He also wanted to learn to help students learn about financial literacy. “We’ve had the chance to learn “hands-on” marketing as part of the internship as tellers, but also as marketers,” says Andy. “We were provided the tools to design a marketing plan on our own. Not only did we learn strategies to teach and market financial education to high school students in this internship, we learned techniques to manage our own finances.”

Paige Olson was interested in the market research aspects of the internship. “We did a research study on our target audience, Generation Z, which includes current high school students,” says Paige. “They are heavily focused on technology and like to receive information in videos or in social media. One idea we had was to send videos with product and service information to high school students through Instagram or Facebook.”

The internship will continue through this summer as the students continue their work as tellers at the branches and complete their marketing research. Middleton High School will continue the collaboration with UW Credit Union, allowing future high school interns to promote financial education and manage branch operations.

As much as Reshma enjoyed the human interaction in her role as a teller, her experience also helped her learn to successfully manage her own finances. “I’ll be working on building my credit score now, because I’ll be able to have more options later on with a strong credit history,” says Reshma.

Reshma is positive about her internship experience and confident as she graduates from Middleton High School and heads off to study business and marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. I know that what I learned from my UW Credit Union internship will provide the knowledge I’ll need to make smart financial choices.”

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