(June 11, 2007 - New Orleans, LA) The credit union movement has long heralded the need to develop the next generation of credit union members and leaders. Some credit unions have embraced this need more than others, but for the past decade the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation) has actively supported Youth Credit Union Programs (YCUPs) across the country.
What began as a small gathering of youth from a handful of CDCUs in Phoenix, Arizona, has become a yearly highlight for Federation-member YCUP participants. This year, 21 middle-school and high-school youth, representing six of the nation’s leading community development credit union (CDCU) YCUPs, came together in New Orleans to take part in specially designed programs and workshops during the Federation’s 33rd Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved (June 6-9, 2007).
“CDCUs have been working with youth for a long time,” said Federation Executive Director, Clifford Rosenthal. “It’s a natural fit for institutions working in low-income communities – bringing in the local young people keeps them off the street and makes them stake-holders in their own communities. The Federation saw the importance of fostering this demographic, and despite a lack of funding, we have hosted yearly YCUP conferences for the past ten years.”
The Federation's network of youth programs reaches both urban and rural areas. Programs serve a wide range of youth, and most offer special youth savings accounts and financial literacy programs. Some have ambitious leadership development programs including training in credit union operations and fundraising and allow the youth to run their own programs, while others focus on encouraging savings and teaching financial literacy. Together the approximately 15 programs approach $500,000 in assets and 3,000 members nationwide.
YCUP Conference Highlights
This year’s YCUP Conference began in the spirit of cooperativism, with youth participants spending their first full day at the conference volunteering in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, joining Pastor Bruce of the St. John #5 Faith Church to help repair a community school and training center in a part of the city that was severely affected by Hurricane Katrina.
| The Federation's YCUP Conference Began with the youth making a real difference by volunteering in New Orleans' Seventh Ward.
“We spent part of the day painting houses and setting up computers,” said Maor “Mo” Bar, one of four students from the Lehman Alternative School in Ithaca, NY that represented the Alternatives FCU YCUP at the conference. “It felt really good helping them out,” he added.
The youth spent the rest of their first day touring the Ninth Ward, seeing for themselves all the devastation that remains a year-and-a-half after the storms.
The day of volunteer-work was rewarded with authentic Cajun cooking and, in the evening, the YCUP students joined the full conference for the CDCU “Second Line” Parade in the French Quarter. The parade, which gave the adults attending the conference an opportunity to have as much fun as the CDCU Youth “Krewe,” featured a brass band, police escort, credit union banners, and a float designed especially for the occasion. More than 100 conference attendees took part in the parade, with a group of the youth leading the musicians onward.
Later in the evening, they watched a sobering account of the rampant credit card debt in America. Maxed Out is a recently-released documentary that highlights the perils of credit card debt and serves as warning to a nation that spends more than it saves – about $9 trillion and counting. Maxed Out had a limited release in theatres this spring, and is now available on DVD. The film screening was open to all and was heavily attended by both the youth and adult conference participants alike.
“Our kids were also among the first to view a half-hour segment from a new PBS program scheduled to begin showing around the country in late fall,” said Daniel Apfel, Education and Training Assistant at the Federation. “BizKid$, a new program by the producers of the popular Bill Nye, the Science Guy, teaches kids how to handle money, even how to start their own businesses, in a style as innovative and fun as Bill Nye. This new series has been sponsored by America’s Credit Unions and the Federation was one of the early supporters of the program. We were very excited to be able to show an advanced screening at our conference,” added Apfel.
“We are thrilled with our partnership with credit unions across the country,” said Jamie Hammond, executive producer of BizKid$. The program, she said, is intended to show kids that “everyone is the CEO of their own life.”
Another highlight of the YCUP Conference was a presentation by youth-entrepreneur, Chauncey Holloman, who began a greeting card business at age 15, and who now has a $10-million licensing and distribution contract. During her interactive session, Holloman explained the key steps in starting a youth-run business. From business plan to product development, she encouraged the youth to start businesses and become their own bosses.
From Participant to Presenters
The conference’s full schedule included workshops not only for the youth, but also by the youth.
| Leland Brunswick, Manager of the Mission Area FCU YCUP (San Francisco, CA), makes a presentation in front of the entire conference.
“This year, we wanted the youth to be more involved with the overall [adult] conference,” explained Margaret Libby, YCUP Coordinator at Mission Area FCU (San Francisco, CA), who also served on the YCUP Conference planning group. “This is something the youth requested during our debriefing at last year’s conference in Durham, North Carolina and we made it an important focus as we organized the conference this year. I think we were successful in integrating the conference programs more than ever before.”
The youth also had an opportunity to discuss their YCUPs at a special “Show and Tell” in front of the entire conference. That session began with the youth marching in-line into the main plenary hall, wearing their credit unions’ respective YCUP t-shirts, and chanting in unison: “Y-C-U-P.” Each of the youth spoke about what the programs have taught them, about managing their finances, and about service to their communities
“We get to handle live transactions, deposits and withdrawals,” said Marcus of Alternatives FCU. “Sometimes teachers even come by and pay off loans.” And Mo, who has worked with the Alternatives program for a semester, said he “learned marketing skills” when they sold milkshakes to pay for the trip from Ithaca to New Orleans.
Bradley Franks, Jr. from the Triumph Baptist FCU (Philadelphia, PA) explained that he created his own matching challenge grants for a $10 deposit as well as establishing Christmas accounts. “Everybody wants to give presents to their mom,” he noted.
“People Helping People” Philosophy Runs Through YCUPs
Many YCUP participants have also become deeply involved in helping their communities. “I get a really big kick out of making someone’s life that much better,” said Josalyn Couch who belongs to the 475-member Teens Headed for Excellence, part of Shreveport FCU’s YCUP in Shreveport, LA.
Ciara Williams, another YCUP member from Shreveport FCU who has been in the club for three years said “I like to help. I go out and feed the homeless and I get to meet a lot of new friends” through the program.
Fifteen year-old Andi Ball Meza, whose mother is active in financial education through the Women’s Southwest FCU in Dallas, TX said she is working toward forming a YCUP so that her classmates will have the benefits of a good financial education. “I grew up and still live in the inner-city. I see all these kids, especially at my school, who are brilliant people, but have no clue how to manage their money,” she said. “A YCUP could really help them prepare for the future.”
|Youth participants lead the Federation's 2nd Line Parade through the French Quarter.
Kids Just Want to Have Fun
At the last youth event of the Conference, the youth participated in the Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl, competing against their new friends from around the country. “This event allows youth to learn and to have fun competing,” said Richard Entenmann of Asset Builders of America, who demonstrated the game-show setup.
Overall, the youth conference Planning Committee was very happy with the conference. “This year just built on all the years before, it was such a wonderful experience for the kids,” explained Joe Cummins, YCUP Coordinator from Alternatives FCU.
“These opportunities are a boon not only for our youth but also for the movement as a whole,” expressed Becky Anderson, Chairman of the YCUP Conference Planning Committee, and YCUP Coordinator for Northwest Baptist FCU (Seattle, WA). “The youth learn, but are also able to see the greater value of the credit union movement through their own program and the dedication and hard work of the other attendees. That is what the Federation’s Youth Conferences are all about and why we keep coming back.”
The committee also expressed their appreciation for the generosity of conference attendees, who donated over $800 for youth scholarships in a drawing held at the conference. The prize at the drawing was a piece of pottery donated by one of the conference plenary speakers: Bill Strickland of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center. Terri J. Fowlkes, who won the piece said, “These kids are the future of both our credit unions and our communities, we are all so excited to support them.”
© 2007 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.