She may have walked the stage to accept her high school diploma last month, but 18-year-old Madelyn Bernard is still spending her days at Walker High School, though she isn’t in class. Instead, she’s working at the Neighbors Federal Credit Union branch located on campus and collecting a paycheck.
Neighbors Federal Credit Union is one of four businesses operating on the Walker campus and is one of half a dozen local companies that have partnered with the public school, tucked away in a forest of pines in Livingston Parish. Papa John’s Pizza opened on campus last year, along with Walk-On’s Conference Center and Nike goods store, Green & White Cookie Site, which are all employed by students.
The partnerships fall in line with a larger trend of schools, like Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School, providing students real-life business experience before collecting their high school diplomas.
“School is boring to kids and doesn’t relate to the real world,” says Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre, who’s headed the school for more than a decade. “I’m trying to make their experience as practical and realistic as possible, and give them real-life experiences while in high school.”
When asked what companies gain from locating to a high school campus, St. Pierre says it’s great product placement, referring to a recent lunch when the school’s football team packed the Papa John’s cafeteria.
Also students working at the Green & White Cookie Site, along with designing spirit apparel, also launch marketing campaigns and work to meet sales quotas. The partnerships between Walker High School and area businesses allow those companies to invest in the future workforce, St. Pierre says.
The Neighbors Federal Credit Union branch—open for nearly a decade—allows the credit union to beta-test programs and services for the company, says Steve Webb, the credit union’s president and CEO, and has been worth the roughly $160,000 investment it cost.