May 21, 2015

Cook Area Credit Union opens second student run branch

On April 29, the Cook Area Credit Union held a grand opening ceremony to kick off the official opening of their second student run branch. This new branch is called "The Jungle" and is located in the South Ridge School in Culver, Minn.
"This is only the sixth student branch in the state of Minnesota. So we are on the cutting edge of providing financial education to our students," states Rich Crettol, CEO of Cook Area Credit Union. "Our mission with the student branch is to provide real-life financial experiences and education to our students. By providing them the tools they need to understand the importance of saving and good money management skills, we will be directing them down the path towards being financially responsible adults." The credit union's first student run branch opened in 2014 and is located in the North Woods School in Cook.
The purpose of a school branch is to teach personal financial education. This will not be a full-size branch like the main location on River Street in Cook. This will be a very small, educationally-focused site, with minimal services. However, it will provide a huge boost to the financial education the students at South Ridge School receive. The cost to the credit union will be very minor compared to the immediate benefits received by the students, and the long-term benefits received by the community.
According to Crettol, "All of the students at South Ridge School will benefit from this branch. They will be able to have their own accounts to help them learn the benefits of saving. We will be educating, motivating, and empowering them to become regular savers which will enable them to keep more of the money they earn. We will work to prepare them to make wise and informed financial decisions, to recognize predatory offers, to balance a checkbook, to properly utilize debit and credit cards, to live within their budget, to have a savings plan, and to build a solid financial foundation for their future."
Students will have the opportunity to work at the school branch and will be supervised by an employee of CACU. They will be selected through an application, interview, hiring, and training process. Some of the benefits to students selected to work at the branch include: gaining experience in job interviewing, learning about the responsibility of holding down a job, learning how to make wise and informed financial decisions, and of course, the importance of confidentiality.
Students across the country are graduating from high school without sufficient knowledge of personal finance. This can lead to poor decisions that can affect their finances for years or decades to come. The financial system in our country is dictated by a handful of extremely large banks. The top 10 banks hold 80 percent of all personal assets. This is to the benefit of those large banks, not to the people who use them. Scammers and predatory financial institutions can trick you into making poor decisions that may ruin your credit before you even get established.
"We all need to be careful in order to protect ourselves," states Crettol. "The Cook Area Credit Union is a not-for-profit corporation. Therefore we have a mission: To provide a better alternative to bank products and services, AND to provide financial education to our members and our community. The large banks do not follow a public mission; they exist solely to make profits."
Since 2006, CACU has been partnering with ISD 2142 by helping to teach financial education to students in the classroom. Employees from CACU volunteer to go into the classrooms to provide education on important financial topics such as: Balancing Your Checkbook, Investing and Interest, and the Importance of Saving and Spending Wisely. The people at CACU see the school branch as a continuation of their commitment to help educate the members of the credit union and the community.
According to Crettol, "The future of our community and our country will be in the hands of today's students. At the Cook Area Credit Union we believe we should do everything in our power to help them succeed."

Students enjoy e-Mentors Program

The Anatomy Class from North Woods School took part in an e-mentor program with the Cook Hospital. Each student was assigned a mentor with whom they communicated each week. At the end of the project the students had a meet and greet with their mentors along with a tour of the hospital.
Mentors came from all facets of the hospital employees. Students would decide each week on the question to ask. Questions covered finances, college aspirations, education for their career, what does your job entail, and what would you do differently. Students enjoyed the experience and getting to ask questions that may or may not get asked.
Following are the results of the e-Mentors connection:
100% of students have a better understanding of how education relates to future careers.
100% of students learned about the knowledge and skills needed for a professional career.
100% of students have learned about career opportunities.
89% of students improved written communications skills.
89% of students feel more comfortable writing professional emails.
89% of students rated their overall experience with the e-Mentors program as good or excellent.
Mentors commented:
100% will participate in e-Mentors again.
100% would recommend e-Mentors to their colleagues.
"I think it is great that the students became more aware of our facility and had a chance to meet us in person. When you are able to make that connection, the students are more apt to contact you in the future for jobs and/or advice."
"I thought it was enjoyable to meet face to face with the student you were communicating with. It was nice to put a face to the person on the other end of the e-mail. It was also nice to hear a little more about the person and what drove them to decide to do this or pick their career path."

Underground Mine Tour should bring folks to northern Minnesota

by Robin Fisher

This is far and away the best State Park tour in the state of Minnesota. Where else can you ride an elevator at 10 miles an hour and plummet a half a mile underground? Best not to think about all the water in Lake Vermilion; a long ways over your head when you are on Level 27! It is a cool 51 degrees F. all the time down there, so bring a jacket.
There is a fun train ride through the tunnels of Level 27. The darkness is total. If there were no lights you would be lost forever in the dark and damp of the abandoned mine. Tour guide James did a great job getting us to empathize with those historic miners. In the beginning they only had candlelight to work with. There was a little candle clamp that went right onto your hard hat. Working in dim light was the norm. James pointed out that any regular light bulbs would just get destroyed by the dynamite blasts anyway. James commented that the biggest trouble for the miners was hearing loss. They did not use hearing protection and the drills were very loud. They ran a drill to demonstrate. He explained what stopes and raises were and how the ceiling rock is spread on the floor to help them mine the ceiling.
The Tower-Soudan Underground Iron Mine was known to be one of the safest ever used. There was good ventilation shafts for fresh air in spite of the great depth. There was excellent water pumping to keep the mine dry. It had fewer injuries and deaths than other mines. This is a great comfort to the people on the tour!
The guide makes a point of NOT talking about the millions of bats that live in the mine. One lady said she would never come back now that she knew there were bats! Some folks are terrified of them. The good news is that our Soudan Mine bats have less disease than other bats. They are being studied to find out why they enjoy better health and that information could help out other bats. Bats are great for eating mosquitoes and other insects.
The underground mine still has huge quantities of high quality iron ore. "So why aren't we mining it now?" asks a participant. James told the story of the taconite pellet - a lower grade ore, but much less expensive to make and transport. "It all comes down to cost. Every bit of ore had to be brought up the half-mile shaft of the elevator. It now costs $40 just for the electricity to run the hoist one time. No way to make money on this mine any more."
Later on during the groundbreaking ceremony at the adjoining Vermilion State Park, the DNR commissioner talked about the mine tour. The underground mine park is by far the most expensive State Park to maintain and operate. The hoist is so expensive to keep going. They hope by adding the new 3,000-acre park it will help overall with the expenses. No one wants to see this fabulous tour have to close up. If you have not yet gone "down under" in Soudan, take your guests and family and go see what underground mining is all about.
The tour participants were treated to a miner's lunch at Sulu's Coffee Shop in Tower. Pasties, slaw and potica were served - a real Slovenian miner's lunch.


Pick up this week's paper for more stories and pictures...

Camp Vermilion holds 'clean up day,' dedicates new $2.2 million retail value dining hall

Cook's Volunteer Fire Dept. / Ambulance host Open House

Native Museum Tour Gives a Glimpse into Native Life

North Woods Junior and Senior High Spring Choral Concert has audience tapping their feet

Letters to the Editor ...