Getting down to business

The best-kept secret in Shelby County is the opening of a branch of the First Educators Credit Union at the Business and Finance Academy (BAFA), currently located at the Shelby County School of Technology.

Opened Jan. 28, the credit union is open to all, services checking and saving accounts, and is run by the students of the BAFA.

Since its inception 10 years ago, Dora Montgomery has led the BAFA. Mandatory courses for graduation include accounting principles, business and marketing essentials, integrated computer technology and personal and business finance. BAFA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and utilizes an office environment where students learn to operate an actual business.

For years, Montgomery has yearned for the BAFA to partner with a business, which would give her students real time work. Montgomery spearheaded the drive for First Educators to partner with the BAFA.

Through two major $5,000 grants, Montgomery has turned a classroom into a bank complete with teller windows, office manager’s desk and administrative areas. Students take turns as bank tellers, office manager and administrative assistants to learn actual skills.

On May 27, BAFA will graduate its first credit union workers: Tiffany Anderson, Amber DeShazo, Cassy Jackson and Amanda Fowler.

Anderson plans to pursue a business degree from Holmes Community College in Mississippi. DeShazo looks forward to attending Jefferson State University pursuing a business degree.

“More than anything, the Academy has given me job preparedness,” said DeShazo.

Jackson plans to attend the University of Tennessee in the School of Banking.

Fowler was homeschooled and said the BAFA has given her much needed people skills. A budding entrepreneur, Fowler has opened her own business, “Stuck Up by Amanda” making purses, tote bags, wallets and more using duct tape. For information, email stuckupbyamanda@yahoo.com.

All the students love Montgomery, their teacher and mentor. She has been the heart and soul of the Academy, striving for years to create a real working environment.

“Here we aim for our students to leave prepared for the real world for a job to sustain them in life,” said Montgomery. “Our motto is preparing young leaders today for a better tomorrow.”

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.