International Year of Cooperatives Event Brings Portland Credit Unions Together at JA BizTown

In the mini city called Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown, young consumers spend a “real-life” day putting their financial literacy class instruction to the test. They run restaurants, local governments, act as news reporters, buy, sell and take responsibility.

Credit union staff’s role in all of this will take center stage at the JA BizTown’s SE Foster Road facility in Portland on April 4. The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) is asking up to 25 volunteers from local credit unions to register for a day of guiding the students through the operation of up to 19 public and private entities. The event is being staged to recognize the United Nations’ International Year of Cooperatives.

“What a great impression we can create for these fifth graders who have worked so hard in their classrooms to get ready for the big day where they can put their skills to work,” said Lynn Heider, assistant vice president of public relations and communications for the NWCUA. “For them to see professionals from competing credit unions working together to promote financial literacy is walking the talk of the cooperative movement.”

The NWCUA encourages volunteers to wear branded clothing from their credit unions as a visual display of their unity.

Volunteering at JA BizTown is a value for students and their parents, many of whom work and cannot staff the businesses the students are operating. The time commitment is about seven hours, with an early morning 90-minute training session followed by the event attended by the students.

Video posted on JA’s website depicts students jubilantly articulating their experiences as elected officials, executives, law enforcement officers and more. But it’s not only a memorable event for the students.

“BizTown is a wonderful hands-on experience for kids. Not only are these young students interacting in a community atmosphere, but they are learning valuable takeaways about responsibility, teamwork and contributing to the greater good,” said Lori Fink, marketing manager for Unitus Community Credit Union. Fink will return to JA BizTown April 4 as a third-time volunteer as part of the International Year of Cooperatives celebration.

“I volunteered again because this is all about making learning fun,” she said. I enjoyed working with the mayor of BizTown in my first experience. Then on my second visit I got to be involved with my son’s class, and he was assigned as one of the town’s news anchors. What fun! If we can teach kids about earning a paycheck, working hard toward a goal all while having fun in the chaos of the town, they will be more excited about school, college and what’s next in their career paths. The lessons are outstanding, and these fifth graders take home some pretty cool memories about their time at BizTown.

Registration is still available online for the Portland-area volunteers.

Credit Union Day at Portland’s JA BizTown is one of many collaborative events taking place during the International Year of Cooperatives in the Northwest. Similar events are already planned in Seattle on April 3 and 17. Association staff is looking for opportunities for cooperative credit union events in other communities throughout the year.


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Posted in Events, NWCUA.