Education

New Gesa debit cards to make contributions to Kennewick schools

From left, Kamiakin teacher Olivia Clizbe, junior Calista Gann, Brandon Allison of Gesa Credit Union, Kennewick junior Sayan Banks and Kennewick teacher Kami Smith help unveil new school-branded Visa debit cards at a news conference Wednesday. Watch a video at www.tricityherald.com/video
From left, Kamiakin teacher Olivia Clizbe, junior Calista Gann, Brandon Allison of Gesa Credit Union, Kennewick junior Sayan Banks and Kennewick teacher Kami Smith help unveil new school-branded Visa debit cards at a news conference Wednesday. Watch a video at www.tricityherald.com/video Tri-City Herald

There’s a new battlefront in the rivalries between Kennewick’s three comprehensive high schools: the checkout line.

Gesa Credit Union and the Kennewick School District unveiled branded Visa debit cards for Kennewick, Kamiakin and Southridge high schools late Wednesday morning.

Emblazoned with each school’s colors and logo, Gesa customers can trade in their current card and receive a new one for their high school of preference at no cost.

The cards are about more than just showing school spirit. Gesa will donate an undisclosed amount to the schools for each purchase made with the cards, be it at the mall or at the gas pump. That money will primarily be funneled to the schools’ marketing- and business-focused DECA clubs, whose student members will be charged with helping to market their school’s card.

It’s not known how much money the cards will ultimately generate for student activities, district and credit union officials said. But with the schools able to generate money for students at no cost to Gesa’s customers or district residents, they see it as a win-win situation.

“Everybody loves passive fundraisers,” said Superintendent Dave Bond.

Gesa has had a relationship with Tri-City high schools for years, through the establishment of credit union branches at the schools to educational programs and opportunities for students, who work the school-based branches and in other branches.

“Today we get to make our relationship even stronger,” said Don Miller, Gesa’s president and CEO, during a news conference.

Branded debit cards are commonly available for universities and colleges around the country, provided by regional banks and other financial institutions.

While few high schools have a similar relationship, Miller said one was recently released for some schools in Texas, generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for the schools.

Bond stressed the debit cards’ educational component — each school will only receive as much money as the cards specifically designed for them generate through purchases. That puts the onus on each school’s marketing club to encourage students, parents and others to trade in for their school’s card.

“That rivalry, that allegiance to our schools I think is a real draw,” Bond said, adding “it’s a really unique way to show marketing in the real world.”

It will be up to administrators at each school to determine whether other student clubs could also benefit from Gesa’s donations from the cards, Bond said. But it’s thought that the DECA clubs will retain the lion’s share of the revenue because of their role in marketing them.

That money would likely help the DECA clubs attend student conferences and competitions and support the community service projects they perform each year, school officials said.

As for those with loyalties to high schools outside of Kennewick, you may just need to bide your time — Gesa has been in talks with other districts about offering cards for their high schools as well, Miller said.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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