DENVER -- A Denver math teacher, Donna Duvall-Serrano, who is nationally acclaimed for founding 24 years ago what is now the nation's largest student-run credit union, is retiring this month.
Since 1984 she has been manager of Kent Denver CU, housed in a private school and considered one of the oldest such facilities in the country operated as a branch of Westerra CU of Denver.
"Donna leaves a tremendous national legacy in the teaching of financial literacy," declared C. Alan Peppers, president/CEO of Westerra, which took over Kent Denver CU under a transaction involving the merged Gateway CU. Previously, Kent Denver had been run by Lowry FCU, which changed its name to Gateway.
Kent Denver, which often has been used as a model for the launch of student CUs elsewhere, currently retains $2 million in assets offering a full line of financial services to students, faculty and families from offices in a commons of Kent Denver.
As a branch of Westerra, students apply for approximately 20 positions each year to operate the CU, while also helping others learn financial responsibility. Each year a senior is selected as president, supported by officers and teller staff who operate the CU during lunch hours every school day.
"Donna has long been sought after as resource for those credit unions looking to start a successful student-run credit union," said Peppers praising her "dedication and commitment to financial literacy."
Located in the school's commons area, the CU provides Kent's 655 students (6th through 12th grade) everything from their first checking account and first credit card to savings accounts and spending money.
Duvall-Serrano said she started the CU as a way to help students learn about the financial world through hands-on experience by providing them with business skills. Named to succeed Duvall is Tracy Wittmer.
The president of the CU, David Hanley, a senior, said it has been his hope that by having a CU on campus "we can make a mark on student's lives so they will have a head start" in business or personal finance.
"If students know more about loans, credit cards and FICO scores, they will have more control over their financial future," he concluded.
He noted that most financial institutions do not educate their users about late fees, overdraft charges, delinquent payments and their impact on credit scores. "The credit union is unique in striving to ensure that all students understand the loan and savings options available to them, and how they impact their daily lives."
Kent CU has 12 senior tellers, six of which officer positions and are elected by their peers. Among these are vice presidents of teller supervision, operations, marketing, internal statistics and finance. The officers meet on a regular basis and participate in school presentations."
Over the summer and during school vacations tellers train at Westerra to improve their skills and mentor new tellers. The internship includes nine-hour days, providing students with work experience in a larger financial environment.
Westerra noted that about 60% of the school community holds an account at the branch. That community includes alumni, family members, school organizations and clubs.