Trust, Commitment are Keys to Financial Education Outreach

Carol Kilfoil and Cori Frauendiener walk through a mock Reality Fair at the Financial Education Best Practice Roundtable in Eugene, Ore.

When Carol Kilfoil and Cori Frauendiener formed their financial education partnership nearly two decades ago, some of their own children were still in car seats. Today the partnership thrives. The duo is at the throne of an outreach dynasty that one way or another will reach nearly every kid in the Salem-Keizer school district—through credit union school branches, during classroom presentations, on field trips, or, even better—when the older students start teaching the very young.

“I get a little choked up,” Kilfoil told a group of more than 30 credit union educators attending a Financial Education Best Practices Roundtable in Eugene Wednesday. “It’s my passion.”

Kilfoil is a teacher at West Salem High School and Frauendiener is director of education partnerships at Maps Credit Union in Salem, Ore. They were among a dozen presenters at the roundtable, sponsored by the Northwest Credit Union Association’s (NWCUA) Financial Education Committee and the Northwest Credit Union Foundation.

Financial education is one of the greatest social impacts credit unions make on communities. The passion staff members have for being able to make that difference was palpable at the Roundtable—shared by those who go into classrooms, jails and battered women’s shelters on a daily basis.

Presenters shared classroom teaching resources and outreach models that will be part of an online resource library, housed on a secure website for NWCUA members.

“Trust” was a common thread stressed by all of them; when they go into a classroom, they note, they are not there to sell credit unions—they are there to help people grow their financial capability. It is a core practice for Anissa Arthenayake, an educator for OSU Federal who logs 1,500 miles a month driving to presentations. Arthenayake taught finance lessons to more than 13,000 school and adult students last year.

The Kilfoil-Frauendiener partnership laid the foundation for a well-oiled financial education machine that includes three in-school credit union branches, classroom instruction and opportunities for older students to mentor younger children.

Kilfoil’s high school students wrote an award-winning storybook about financial literacy, and they mentor young children who are learning their first lessons about earning, managing, and wisely spending money. Some of the Maps and Salem-Keizer outreach includes credit union branch tours for children as young as second grade.

“They get to touch the money,” Kilfoil said. The credit union and the school students have developed a number of age-appropriate learning materials for children including puzzles and games.

The outreach partnership has tangible benefits for the older students, offering a network of three in school credit union branches where students can open savings and checking accounts. The branches are staffed by the students as well.

“No, we are not training them to be Maps employees,” Frauendiener stresses. “We are training them to be successful people.” How many life-long memberships they’re building or career paths the branches may be determining doesn’t seem to matter much and no one has tried to measure it.

“We don’t expect the ROI,” Frauendiener said. “This is our giveback to the community.”

Financial education is a long term promise credit unions and school districts must work together to keep, Frauendiener noted. “If you can find a way to commit to a teacher, they will start calling you,” she said.

The school district-Maps partnership may be what you’d expect of a credit union that was founded during the Great Depression by school teachers in Marion County, but it wasn’t easy to create and it takes fortitude and trust to maintain it.

In fact, don’t expect Carol Kilfoil to take much time off this summer; she’ll be busy creating an outreach website that eventually will house virtual financial literacy classes.

All in a life’s work for passionate credit union professionals and their classroom partners.

 

Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Around the NW, CU4Kids, NWCUA.