News & Information

2017 Desjardins Awards honor four for adult and youth financial education

by Christine Henzig, Director of Communications Aug 16, 2017

Join us in honoring four Wisconsin credit unions for excellence in financial education. 

Desjardins AwardThe award is named in honor of Alphonse Desjardins, the founder of the North American credit union movement. Desjardins established the first "caisse populaire," or people’s bank, in Quebec in 1900 and helped establish the first American credit union in New Hampshire in 1909.

Separate awards for 2017 honor their:

Adult Financial Education

  • Altra Federal Credit Union, La Crosse - First Place ($1 billion+ in assets). Last year the credit union delivered free financial management lessons to more than 800 adults and provided 346 consultations to help families understand their finances and create improved financial plans. The credit union also partners with local organizations to deliver free financial lessons during Money Smart Week and provides personal finance training to local financial educators. This past year the credit union partnered with the City of La Crosse to deliver financial workshops for city employees and their families, including those who live in the area's lowest-income neighborhoods. Multiple events focused on credit reports and scores. The credit union has also provided presentations on financial and career topics for UW-La Crosse as well as financial "lunch n' learns" for Select Employee Groups (SEGs). Altra also sponsors teachers to attend a summer training in personal finance.

Youth Financial Education

  • Altra Federal Credit Union, La Crosse - First place ($1 billion+ in assets). The credit union developed a Life Stage Financial Education Series that begins with kids ages 8-10 as part of a two-day Cash Camp, moves to a Money Smart Camp for youth ages 11-12 and progresses to a Teens and Money program for ages 13-17.  Later touch points include advice on financing college and a first-time car or home purchase. A $10 savings match coupon encourages young people to open new accounts and supportive interest rates encourage regular deposits. The credit union has participated in reality fairs impacting more than 900 high school students, taught Junior Achievement courses, and developed a personal finance quiz to help local schools gauge the effectiveness of what's being taught in class. Staff provide educational materials and teaching assistance at local schools, four of which have implemented a financial literacy requirement in order to graduate. The credit union reached 2,137 students with 109 presentations last year, ensuring alignment with schools' curriculum requirements (encouraging continued usage). Through a free mobile app, the credit union also helps students save, spend and share by setting goals, practicing math skills through games and initiating family conversations about money. Total student outreach - including staff support for Junior Achievement - last year surpassed 8,091 across three states. The credit union feels its support of financial education for youth and adults has helped lower its average member age to 39.8. Altra also recently created a Political Affairs Committee which ensures employees attend advocacy events and share news about these successes with lawmakers.

  • Co-op Credit Union, Black River Falls - ($250 million - $1 billion+ in assets). The credit union recently added a Certified Financial Education Instructor to its staff. It also offers a student-run, in-school branch with interest rate incentives for savers. 585 young people are benefiting from this and other efforts to teach financial concepts in class. A reality fair also benefits 9th-12th graders. For 8th graders, the credit union provides quarterly budgeting and savings presentations in class. Credit cards with small limits ease students into proper use of credit and help them build positive credit scores. Several local towns are now benefiting from customized personal finance instruction and ongoing guidance for students and their families. The credit union also supported efforts to bring a Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl to the La Crosse area involving widespread credit union support. The credit union also offers financial lessons through a local co-op youth ambassador program, a native american tribe, the police department and Junior Achievement. Co-op also keeps legislators apprised on these efforts through conversations at The League's state Government Affairs Conference, listening sessions in the district and other community events. 
  • Taylor Credit Union, Medford. ($50 million - $250 million in assets). The credit union operates three in-school, student-run branches, and partners with a special education program at a local school to teach basic financial Life Skills to help young adults prepare for life on their own. The Life Skills students learn about deposit and withdrawal slips, reading receipts and statements for accuracy, protecting against identity theft, saving, borrowing, shopping wisely and managing a checking account through check writing and keeping a register. The Life Skills group also helps at the regular school branch office to encourage younger savers, and tours the credit union's main office. The credit union also provides rewards for saving and ongoing guidance any time the students seek help. The credit union also organized a Take Your Legislator to Work Day in which the Life Skills group shared their successes working with staff at Taylor to achieve financial preparedness for life on their own.

  • Glacier Hills Credit Union, West Bend. Second place ($50 million - $250 million in assets). The credit union developed its reality fair for teens to provide "life scenarios" that align with students' career ambitions to increase student interest and engagement. After three successful events, business department faculty are proposing to the school board a financial literacy requirement for the class of 2020. The fairs, which have reached more than 1,000 students, have had strong volunteer support from local businesses. Glacier Hills also worked with business department faculty to develop a checking account workbook.

Winners receive a plaque and are honored on social media, at a local chapter meeting and at The League's annual Convention. Winners also receive assistance to share news about their accolade with local media, as awards are an excellent opportunity to create awareness about the value of belonging to a member-owned financial cooperative.

National-level winners, which are selected by the Credit Union National Association, will be announced later this year. Those winners will be honored at CUNA's 2018 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.