Northeast Community Credit Union opens branch in Unaka High School

For students leaving high school for college for the first time, it can be a freeing and empowering experience. However, when those bills start coming in, especially when they find an apartment later on and have to now pay for things on their own, how do they know how any of it works?

Members of the Carter County community gathered at Unaka High School to host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the beginning of a branch of the Northeast Community Credit Union within the high school. This branch is different, however. The branch will be completely student-run.

President and CEO of the union Theresa Arnold said this is only the second time they have opened a branch within a school in East Tennessee.

“Students will receive service hours from this,” Arnold said. “These are skills you cannot get from a textbook.”

U.S. Representative Phil Roe came for the ceremony from the Legislative breakfast earlier that day, and said the experience students will gain from the credit union’s presence will be invaluable.

“Student loan debt has doubled over the past few years,” Roe said. “It far exceeds all credit card debt.”

The credit union hosts a variety of activities throughout the year in order to promote financial literacy in communities.

“We have a long-standing tradition of financial literacy with our non-profit framework,” Arnold said.

For students about to graduate high school, she said these lessons are vital.

“Juniors and seniors are getting a lot of credit card offers now,” she said. “We need to give them a partner to help guide them.”

She said when they first proposed the idea to Carter County Schools Superintendent Kevin Ward, he was immediately interested.

“My part was easy,” Ward said. “I took it to the board. We really appreciate what these students are doing.”

County Mayor Russell Barnett issued a proclamation in support of the branch’s opening, as well.

The school branch will only be open two days out of the week during normal school weeks.

Arnold said their success at Unaka was a direct result of everyone’s effort coming together.

“This is a group effort,” she said.

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