Orange juice is a precious luxury. Yes, you read correctly. I know what you’re thinking, “What is this guy talking about?” As a young boy growing up in meager circumstances, orange juice was an expensive commodity. I remember all too well my mother’s words as she caught me sneaking a second glass, “What are you doing? You know we can’t afford that!” Money was not easy to come by. Forever ingrained in my memory is a sign my mother posted on the back of our minivan, which had been looted the previous night. It read, “That $25 you stole last night was all the money I had to feed my family for two weeks.” Despite what must have seemed like impossible challenges, my mother earned her college education, and as a result, elevated her family to a new standard of living. Bring on the OJ! I learned that education is the key to changing one’s circumstances.
Consider this for a moment. According to statistics shared by Jim Nussle, CEO of CUNA, Millennials comprise the largest generation alive today at nearly 75 million strong. They currently spend nearly $1.3 trillion annually and are expected to comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025. If that hasn’t caught your attention, consider this: 60% have debt from credit cards and student, automobile, and mortgage loans; 80% have at least one debit card. Despite those staggering numbers, only 15% use a credit union. Further, according to a study conducted by the BYM Agency, over 70% have no idea what a credit union is! We have to earn the trust of what will become the largest generation in history, and trust me, they don’t want to worry about their next glass of orange juice. How do we do it? Education is the key.
Our credit union, in league with Cemark, Inc., implemented a financial literacy program in local high schools. It’s integrated directly into the schools’ annual curriculum and is taught by the teachers. In the first year alone, over 150 students were taught the value of credit unions. Now in its third year, what began in one local high school, has expanded to four, and has reached over 450 students. It’s changing lives as illustrated by one teacher who stated that her students were “able to make so many connections to their present and future lives” and that they “will be ready for financial success and security.” Inspired by this, I plan to expand this project even further by exploring internships and scholarship programs.
Now that students have begun their journey, it’s time to see the credit union difference in action. I will contact the administrators of each school by September 15, 2015 to establish an internship program. Utilizing criteria established by the schools and credit union, one to two interns will be chosen per school year. They will spend at least one afternoon per week at the credit union throughout the school year, or an alternate schedule as chosen by the participating school. Each week, interns will observe a different area of the credit union and as they observe and engage, they will more fully understand the implications of financial choices, and the joy of giving back by helping those in need. We as the credit union will be creating a more financially educated consumer, as well as a loyal fan base of tomorrow’s credit union member and employee.
For a great example, check out this link: http://www.cutoday.info/Fresh-Today/MSUFCU-Expands-Intern-Program-With-Launch-of-Innovation-And-Education-Center
In today’s soaring cost of tuition, students need all the assistance they can muster to pay for a college education. How will a scholarship program function? Each year, financial literacy students who have maintained a 2.0 GPA or above, will have an opportunity to write a 500- to 750-word essay, discussing how they will utilize financial literacy to better their lives and those of their peers and family. The prize is a $500 scholarship. But why stop there? In the spirit of credit union collaboration, why not partner with other credit unions and raise that dollar amount? I plan to commit $500 from three other credit unions by October 30, 2015. That equates to a $2000 scholarship! By March 2016, the first recipient of the CU Scholarship for Success will be named.
In conclusion, the more we educate, the more we elevate. My hope is that we inspire all to become what or whom they desire to be…and to drink that second glass of orange juice.