April is National Credit Union Youth Month, a time when credit unions nationwide focus on providing young people in their communities with opportunities to learn about such financial activities as smart money management, the importance of savings and the mechanics of borrowing. Sponsored by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the purpose of Youth Month this year is to promote the importance of savings as a crucial life skill to prepare youngster for a more secure, brighter financial future.
However, for many credit unions, every month is youth month with the sponsorship of a wide range of innovative programs designed specifically to connect with young people through high school and even into college.
While there are hundreds of credit unions that offer a spectrum of excellent learning experiences for young people, we have focused on three whose programs are representative of the diversity and quality of these specialized educational activities.
Redwood Credit Union
Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, California hosts “Bite of Reality,” a 2.5-hour financial reality fair offered area high schools, with a session scheduled in May 2017 at the Marin School/Fusion Academy in San Rafael, California.
Held in joint sponsorship with the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, Bite of Reality assigns an adult identity to youth attendees, i.e., occupation, salary, spouse, children, etc. The participants must then use the details of their identity to make financial ends meet while “purchasing” basic life needs such as housing, transportation, groceries, clothing and medicine. This gives teens a reality like experience of how difficult it can be to manage money, even with a decent, adult-sized income. Thus, the term Bite of Reality.
Georgia’s Own Credit Union
Also offering a spectrum of online information and learning experiences to assist youth is Atlanta-based Georgia’s Own Credit Union, which, among many activities, hosts a dedicated website, georgiaownnext.com, and publishes an active blog.
The website cover topics that include personal profiles of special young people such as a teenager who, with his family, is helping to find a cure for the cystic fibrosis which has afflicted him and his brother. The blog is packed with usable information on how to optimize savings, best ways to budget, which credit cards are recommended for young people, preparing financially for college, and even how to be a successful entrepreneur.
Georgia’s Own also sponsors two annual college scholarships – the $15,000 Ne(x)t Scholarship for Georgia Own members who are attending college, and the $5,000 John B. White Jr. Memorial Scholarship for a high school senior headed to one of Georgia’s public universities.
CoVantage Credit Union
You don’t have to be a large credit union in an urban area to sponsor outreach programs tailored to help young people with their financial lives. A case in point is CoVantage Credit Union based in Antigo, Wisconsin.
Through its Youth Financial Literacy program, CoVantage offers products and services designed for young adults via online learning applications as well as hands-on workshops in local middle schools. For online learning applications, CoVantage directs its young members to Pocket Cents, an informational website created by the National Credit Union Administration that is populated with information on the value of money, how money is made, the history of credit unions, and much more.
For hands-on classroom instruction, CoVantage sponsors financial literacy workshops at seven middle schools in its service area. The credit union provides middle schools with a financial education curriculum and as well as an operating “Kidz” credit union branch in the classroom that helps youngsters develop the real-time habit of saving. The Kidz program also provides students with solid financial skills and knowledge that they can apply to everyday life when they graduate from high school.
Wherever you’re based throughout the country, if you’re a parent with children at home, it’s a smart idea to check out your local credit union’s programs to support your child’s financial literacy as they approach adulthood.