On Aug. 28, two Burnsville High School students were at the helm of a $1.2 billion company.

Arianna Driscoll-Cherland and Emelia (Emma) Hovde arrived by limousine at Firefly Credit Union’s corporate headquarters in Burnsville, where they were invited to serve as CEOs for the day.

Firefly has a multi-faceted partnership with BHS, which includes a student-run branch of the credit union that operates out of BHS, an annual scholarship awarded to a graduating senior and mentorships to learn about financial literacy.

Last summer, Driscoll-Cherland and Hovde partnered with Firefly as they worked to compose a 30-page essay on financial literary. The financial literacy curriculum that they built was implemented into Success 191 — a required freshman course at Burnsville High School. They presented their work at a DECA state competition in the spring. DECA is a national career and technical student organization.

“It was a really jam packed day,” Hovde said.

Their executive schedule included meeting with Firefly CEO Bill Raker, lunch with the Executive Management Team, meeting with the investment adviser and dinner with the board of directors.

According to Raker, who will be retiring at the end of the year, 35 percent of all credit union CEOs will retire in the next five years, creating a desperate need for new ideas, perspective and experiences brought to the table by young people interested in finance.

Hovde, who will be a junior this year, began her work with Firefly back in eighth grade when she helped start the student-run credit union branch that operates out of the high school. Back in the 1970s, Raker, then a high school math teacher, served as the adviser to the first ever student-run credit union at Fort Knox High School in Kentucky.

Hovde is one of four Burnsville High School students currently employed by Firefly. She works as a financial education specialist.

“They are incredibly talented young people with a lot of potential,” Raker said in an email. “I loved it when Emma said she can’t decide whether she should be a senator or go into business and I was able to say, you can do both!”

While at Firefly, Hovde and Driscoll-Cherland were asked to make executive decisions, such as whether or not to replace the lights at headquarters with energy-saving LED lights.

Driscoll-Cherland will attend the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley in the fall. From government issues, to marketing, to environmental studies to working with kids, she hasn’t pinned down yet what career she wants to pursue but knows that she wants to do hands-on work.

Both Driscoll-Cherland and Hovde said that meeting people was their favorite part of being CEOs for the day.

“They talked about what it’s like to be women in a competitive business environment,” Hovde said about meeting with three women on the board of directors.

“I hope they achieve everything they aspire to do and based on what I saw, they will,” Raker said in a statement. “I would be happy to share my office with them for the rest of the year!”


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