AUBURN, Wash. -- From Bremerton to Yakima, those Washington credit unions were cheering for young people last week and counting on their future business as nearly 200 CU leaders from across the U.S. showed up for the one-year anniversary of fundraising for "BizKid$", the financial literacy show slated to appear this fall on public TV.
"It was quite a night with national leaders from Junior Achievement, the show stars and foundation execs recognized for spearheading this project," said a spokesman for the Washington Credit Union League, which served as sponsor for "BizKid$" night.
The event, billed as a "celebration of a wonderful partnership" between CUs, foundations, Junior Achievement WorldWide and the Public Broadcasting System, was held in JA's "Enterprise Village" complex in Auburn, a Seattle suburb.
But the applause for the show's film debut and its producers coincided nicely with Financial Literacy Month and Youth Financial Week and on that score Kitsap Credit Union of Bremerton scored a media coup by getting widespread coverage including a front page spread in three local newspapers on youth accounts and school branches.
It so happens that PBS producers chose South Kitsap High School to film a segment of the BizKid$ show and so Kitsap CU made the most of it alerting the media to the filming and sure enough, the full-page lead cover story of the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal read: "PBS BizKid$ Comes to Kitsap."
And the story was repeated during the week complete with interviews about students using CU services in the Kitsap Sun and in the Port Orchard Herald.
"That kind of exposure for the credit union message was unexpected but we were thrilled to get it," said Cathy Brorson, marketing specialist at Kitsap CU.
The press coverage gave Kitsap CU a chance to promote its extensive array of youth products including savings clubs, "Varsity Checking Newsletter," student-run branches and much more.
"Our youth programs encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation for financial responsibility and its benefits and they learn by having fun," she said.
Kitsap even hosts Teenfest--a free, annual event for young adults that teaches about identity theft and how to protect themselves while writing checks.
On hand for the Auburn anniversary ceremony were several young stars of the show who gave speeches about their participation in BizKid$ and gratitude to "America's Credit Unions" for financing the show.
"My name is Kaelon Horst and I am a BizKid$," declared the South Kitsap senior speaking to an adoring crowd at the JA Enterprise Village. Horst said he was a "bona fide cast member" adding, "I would not have had this opportunity if it wasn't for the ingenious producers of the show who developed this great concept." The concept, he noted, is based on the Emmy-award winning team "that brought us Bill Nye the Science Guy," a popular PBS show.
Also in the Auburn audience were chief CU fundraisers for the show including Mary Cunningham, chairman of the National Credit Union Foundation and president of USA Federal Credit Union of San Diego; Gary Oakland, president/CEO of BECU of Seattle; and representatives of Orange County Teachers Credit Union of Santa Ana, Calif., among others.
In a separate Youth Week event tied to BizKid$ promotions, the $205 million Yakima Valley Credit Union of Yakima said it opened a whopping 925 start-up young people accounts with a $25 free deposit during a 19-day period.
"We realize these accounts are not cost effective now but in the long run we also know that these are future members who we hope will one day open checking accounts and take out car loans," explained Debra Hickman, vice president of marketing.
Hickman said CU management was astonished at the numbers, the result apparently of "word of mouth advertising, some branch incentives and TV and newspaper buys."
Under a league-backed program, 22 CUs took part in the April 11-30 promotion to give "kids an opportunity to get free cash and begin their financial education" by joining a CU.
"We had one day where we opened 250," said Hickman, whose CU normally opens 75 youth accounts a month.
The league program stipulated only eligible youths 17 and under and accompanied by a parent or guardian could get the $25, but also required the funds be held for a year. --firstname.lastname@example.org