Why They Won: Four Northwest Credit Unions Honored at MAXX Convention for Excellence in Youth Financial Education


BECU employees gave up their Columbus Day holiday last year to volunteer at Financial Reality Fairs offered at 16 schools in Washington.

The red carpet was a busy place at the Northwest Credit Union Association’s MAXX Awards Dinner & Gala on Oct. 17.

Credit union professionals stepped up to receive well-deserved honors for their community impact, including four credit unions that received Alphonse Desjardins Youth Financial Education Awards. Alphonse Desjardins founded some of the first American and Canadian credit unions and pioneered in-school credit union branches and youth savings programs. 

It was clear during the MAXX Convention that his work continues decades later in the Northwest. Honored with Desjardins Youth Financial Education Awards for their 2018 efforts were Tukwila, Washington-based BECU, Albany, Oregon-based Central Willamette Credit Union, Clatskanie, Oregon-based Wauna Federal Credit Union, and Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Westmark Credit Union.

Central Willamette Credit Union volunteers work with high school students at a Financial Reality Fair.

Talking to teenagers about money management might be more difficult for parents than talking to their children about sex, drugs, or bullying. BECU changed the game with its “Next Big Talk” program that gives parents and teachers the tools they need to have those conversations. The engaging toolkit can be found online. In addition, 2,000 BECU employees gave up their Columbus Day holiday last year to volunteer at Financial Reality Fairs offered at 16 schools in the Evergreen State.

From classrooms to local Boys and Girls Clubs to the YMCA, the team at Central Willamette Credit Union reached 1,500 middle school, high school, and college students. Employees invested 350 hours — much of it volunteer time — to help the students prepare for brighter financial futures by teaching them the basics of budgeting and credit management.

The CWCU staff partnered with community organizations teaching financial basics and conducted Financial Reality Fairs, which guided students through making budgeting decisions with limited funds, a life-like scenario they are likely to face in coming years.

“The We Wauna Youth Financial Literacy Campaign” is a big hit with kids of all ages.

When a local community college reported that a high percentage of its students could not complete their education due to financial issues, Central Willamette stepped up to help 800 students learn budgeting basics.

Wauna Federal Credit Union was recognized for a comprehensive financial education program benefitting students. The “We Wauna Youth Financial Literacy Campaign” provided classroom training in schools, online learning opportunities, and Financial Reality Fairs.

Westmark Credit Union’s team committed 2,000 employee hours to classrooms in elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. As a result, 3,000 students are smarter about how they will move through life managing their money.

Westmark Credit Union’s financial education program starts with students in elementary schools.

The younger children learned about how the credit union’s employees serve members by offering loans, savings accounts, and other products. They were introduced to the concepts of saving and borrowing. At the junior high level, students learned budgeting and savings basics, how to balance checking accounts, and credit building. The older high school students took deeper dives into business modeling, investing, the stock market, borrowing, and debit and credit card management.

“All of these credit unions’ programs are well-received by their local school districts because they are teaching students, early in life, how to take responsibility for money management,” said Christine Ruzzi, NWCUA’s Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Engagement Resources. “Not only does the financial education help the students, it helps entire families when the students go home and share what they learned at school about finances.”

Ruzzi is the liaison to the NWCUA’s credit union-driven volunteer Awards Committee, which helps to recruit and judge the awards that are presented annually at MAXX Convention.

Editor’s note: Next week, Anthem takes a deeper dive into the programs offered by Northwest credit unions that received Desjardins Adult Financial Education awards.

Posted in Awards.