Corvallis’ OSU Wins Desjardins Financial Awards for Youth and Adult Literacy

A program teaching people in the court system to take financial responsibility won OSU Federal Credit Union a first-place Desjardins Award for Adult Financial Education. The award was one of two regional awards bestowed on the Corvallis-based credit union in 2011, as it was also rewarded with a first-place Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for a 37-week program run in collaboration with the Corvallis School District.

The credit union acknowledged the entire team’s contribution to the award-winning programs with a special awards ceremony attended by staff at OSU today. The plaques were presented specially by Troy Stang, President of the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA).

“OSU set a shining example of community outreach with both of these projects,” Stang said, “and it was an honor to present their team with these well-deserved awards.”

The credit union partnered with three local court programs to create an eight-week curriculum targeting individuals sentenced to drug court. The program taught financial responsibility, including saving, budgeting, credit and debit management, and identity theft. Program organizers said that once those responsibilities were understood, the students could then focus on what got them into the system in the first place and begin the process of turning their lives around.

Polk Country Circuit Court Judge William Horner commended OSU for reaching out to drug court, offering help to people who had already been kicked to the curb by other institutions.

“Our goal is to give our participants tools in order to live life without drugs after they are off probation, and this is one very valuable tool they will need,” Horner said. “After the successful test run over two years ago, we have included this content in our list of requirements that must be completed in order to graduate.”

The court program expanded beyond Polk County to Marion County and to the Pine Street Resource Center in Salem. A new program will also be offered to the Benton County Parole and Probation Department.

OSU also earned a first place Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award in the $500 million-and-over-asset category. In working with the Corvallis School District Alternative High School, also known as College Hill, OSU taught “real-life” skills to students struggling with adult issues. “Destination Real World” was a 37-week commitment for OSU Federal, the students and the school district. An OSU spokesman said a group event as simple as a lunch built a lasting bond for the students that opened the door to learning new skills.

“During our first lunch, we saw these usually-guarded kids sharing food off their plates and everyone talking together—no cliques. They were all the same,” said Anissa Arthenayake, OSU’s Director of Community Education. “They already knew the importance of money due to events in their worlds. Therefore, when we discussed credit and credit scores, their world became clearer and the path was lit. Watching them learn about the elements that could help them in getting apartments, jobs or loans was wonderful, and they ate up all the information we gave them. We put together the need to budget and the ability to pay bills. Timely bill payments help achieve credit and the ability to get loans to purchase life’s major items, like a car. They saw the importance of this content to their everyday lives.”

“It was great to have Anissa accept the award on behalf of the credit union,” Stang added. “She embodies the culture and passion of the credit union in her community work every day.”

This passion and commitment to uplifting the community was evident in the program’s structure as well.

“There’s something very upbeat about the information that is relevant, and it fits teenagers very well,” College Hill teacher Chuck Holst said. “We get into information about money and our culture that comes right off the front lines straight into the classroom.”

“Destination Real World” is in its second year in Corvallis.

The Desjardins awards recognize credit unions for promoting financial literacy. The honor is named after Alphonse Desjardins, who founded the first credit unions in North America and pioneered youth savings clubs and in-school credit unions.


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