Reaching Our Youth-One Way to Make a Difference

By Ed Bedell, Business Development Officer

As a parent of a rambunctious toddler, I have strong feelings for the behavior and decisions that I would like my child to exhibit when he gets older. As we all know, decisions will be made that are both good and bad. While we canít predict the future or the type of decisions that our children will make, we can at least work to educate them in certain areas that will aid in their decision making process.

As a person who cares about the youth in our community and the future generations that will help to keep our community thriving and growing, I feel it is important to use my knowledge, expertise and circle of influence to educate our youth as much as possible. Over the past few months, Spokane Federal Credit Union has partnered with several agencies in our community to deliver financial education to aid in smart decision making. The goal is to ensure that our youth have the correct information to use when making decisions that could potentially affect them for their entire lives.

One of the organizations that we have recently partnered with is Crosswalk, which is a division of Volunteers of America. Crosswalk is headquartered in Downtown Spokane and serves youth in our community that have struggled with homelessness, hunger and other trying situations. Crosswalk provides a warm and safe place to sleep, fresh meals and mentoring services to their youth participants. One area that we felt that we could lend our expertise in was basic financial education. We worked together to develop a curriculum and include content that the participants would find relevant and useful.

Over the course of 6 months, we completed 2 four week cycles, in which we met weekly with the participants for 45 minute sessions. We gathered around a table and discussed financial education topics that they felt were important to them. †The sessions were open discussions, as we encouraged feedback and participation from each of the participants. As a credit union, our goal was to learn as much as we could about our youth and give them some tools to help them make good decisions.

Our first session was based around the participants understanding the options that are available to them when they start receiving paychecks form employment. The discussion included how to cash a check, what identification requirements might exist, check cashing fees and how to identify their needs and wants. We discussed how they would spend their first paycheck, and if they were working towards a goal.

The second session focused on best practices for saving. We discussed the importance of identifying their goals and then wrote a SMART goal to put a plan in place to help them reach their goals. The participation was amazing and, at times, eye opening. The things that we focus on during our daily lives (Cell phones, IPods, Vacations) become less important after listening to others whose goals are finding a safe place to call home.

The third session was used to educate the participants on the benefits of banks and credit unions and how to determine which of the two is a good fit for them. The most impactful aspect was the moment that the participants realized that there was an option for them, regardless of what it was.

The fourth session covered the basics of credit. We discussed the importance of understanding credit, why it is needed and how to use it responsibly. Many of the participants were fascinated with the information and were happy to have an understanding of the responsible use of credit, whether it was for the purpose of establishing credit, purchasing a home or to help pay for school.

Overall, the experiences that we shared with the Crosswalk participants were valuable in many ways. It allowed us, as a credit union, to give back in a way that encouraged participation and feedback. It gave the participants the opportunity to learn about something that could truly impact their lives, both in the present and in the future. It also helped guide our future generations towards making smart choices that could impact our community in many ways. Our participation is just the beginning of a blossoming relationship with the youth in our community, and we look forward to continued involvement in these types of programs.

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