On October 29, 1997, an excited group of students, teachers, administrators and guests gathered in Room 102 of Winnipeg’s Transcona Collegiate. They were there to help cut the ceremonial ribbon on a unique business-education partnership between Casera Credit Union (then known as Transcona Credit Union) and Transcona-Springfield School Division (now known as River East Transcona School Division).
The new venture was Titan Credit Union, Manitoba’s first high school-based financial cooperative, and the grand opening signalled the beginning of a 20-year success story that has seen hundreds of Transcona Collegiate students receive an enhanced consumer education while developing leadership and teamwork skills.
“Encouraging youth is an essential component of Casera’s cornerstone value of supporting our community and the Titan initiative has proven to be an excellent way for young people to strengthen their financial literacy skills and acquire real-world job experiences,” says Brent Thomas, Casera’s CEO.
The student-run credit union is operated by students for credit as part of Transcona Collegiate’s Life/Work Transitions course. The regular student body is the marketplace and students (and school staff) are encouraged to become members of Titan Credit Union. The credit union is open for business during the school’s lunch hour.
Teacher Kelly Wilde oversees the program, a task she undertook in 2001 when she took over the class from Geoff Tuckwell. Wilde says students from various grade levels work together, electing their peers to a board of directors who in turn hire students to operate the branch. Casera staff members also offer seminars throughout the year on the roles and responsibilities of board members, the differences between credit unions and banks and day-to-day operating procedures.
“The course brings students of different ages, grades and backgrounds together to work cohesively,” explains Wilde. “They learn how to work with others, speak in public, work with money, manage their time, along with a variety of other skills. These activities help students build confidence in themselves and their abilities.”
Since its inception, Titan Credit Union has inspired other Canadian credit unions to adopt the course model and its curriculum in their community high schools. In 2006, Casera received a youth leadership award from the Manitoba Cooperative Association for its innovative program. Casera was also instrumental in helping St. Vital’s Dakota Collegiate launch Lancer Credit Union in 2015.
“There is great value in inspiring young people to lead successful, cooperative lives and Titan and Lancer credit unions are a testament to that ideal,” states Brent Thomas.
(Cover photo) Titan crew for 2017-18, L-R: Kelly Wilde, teacher; Mike Alamil, board member; Carson Dickinson, board member; Jacob Yerlitz, president; Christine Kolbuck, branch manager.