Credit Cards for High School Students- Only at Sweetwater
Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach California is the most southwesterly high school in the continental U.S. Just 2 blocks from the Pacific Ocean and 3 miles north of the Mexican border. It also may well have the dubious distinction of being the first High School in the country that offered its students CREDIT CARDS! On 7/9/02, 7/10/02, 7/31/02 and 8/01/02, Wells Fargo was hawking credit cards at Mar Vista. The college students must be getting too wise to the credit card companies so they have to move to high schools.

The Wells Fargo representative was on school property in what is known as the quad area, where most students eat and congregate. They were offered miniature soccer balls if they filled out applications. This was during summer school, when they are only two class periods. Applications were offered during lunch- 10 to 10:25 AM, between periods one and two. A teacher complained to the principal George Ohnesorgen (who is now the Assistant Principal at Chula Vista Middle) about this after school on July 12. He stated that it was his decision alone to allow them on campus. When asked how much the district was getting to allow Wells Fargo on campus, he said nothing , "they're not getting a kickback" (his words) He said that he understood my position and that his daughter had credit card problems but that he didn't see anything wrong with offering credit cards to high school students. I asked one of my economics students to ask the Wells Fargo representative what they were paying the district. The rep said they were not paying anything but offering services to the district in exchange for the right to be on campus. The students who applied were quite thrilled with their miniature soccer balls but evidently oblivious to what they were getting into. The teachers I talked to about this voiced disapproval but not much.

It is interesting to note that one other high school was open for summer school in our district- Bonita Vista High, but Bonita Vista is located in a very upscale neighborhood where there probably would have been a parent revolt had they attempted to offer high school students credit cards there. Mar Vista has a parent population that usually does not complain about much, which probably explains why they were targeted. At an Aug. 26 Board Meeting, the Board was informed about the credit card solicitations by a Mar Vista teacher. They acted shocked and Superintendent Brand gave the teacher his card and asked him to call him about it. The teacher did and received a call back from Assistant Superintendent Bob Acuna. Acuna stated that he talked to Ohnesorgen and that Ohnesorgen thought “they were just educating students about banking services and didn’t realize they were offering credit cards.” This directly contradicts Ohnesorgen’s statements on July 12 (see above). Acuna stated that they would “put the word out to all Principals not to let that happen again.” When asked if the Board would adopt a formal policy forbidding credit card offerings to high school students on district campuses, he said he would see.

Raul Velazquez, the Branch Manager of the local Wells Fargo is the contact person whose name appears on the flyer. When asked about the propriety of offering credit cards to high school students, he belatedly agreed that is was improper but only after being told about the potential negative publicity if the news got out. He stated that it would be “an easy fix” to leave out the credit card offerings in the future.

Running true to form, The Sweetwater Union High School District School Board, despite repeated urgings, has refused to adopt a policy forbidding credit card solicitations to high school students on District campuses. As for George Ohnesorgen, the Summer School Principal who allowed the credit card offerings (on four separate occasions), he was promoted, to full-time principal at Castle Park Middle School, starting in January of 2003.

Wells Fargo Flyers and Assistant Principal's Bulletins