Two years ago Meriwest Credit Union decided to make its community a priority by developing a financial education program that has flourished over this past year.
The Financial Education for All program was created in July 2007, and in its first year, 1,186 people attended the educational events. Over this past year, attendance grew 46% and 1,692 people attended 83 workshops.
Greg Meyer, community relations manager at Meriwest, helped create the curriculum for the financial education program when he came to Meriwest in 2007 from a large bank.
"Banks talk a big game about financial literacy," Meyer said. "They just throw money at the problem and expect the nonprofit organizations to teach it."
When the program started, Meriwest partnered with nonprofits and local charities, such as the Housing Authority of Santa Clare County and Innvision, to reach out to the San Jose, Calif. community. Since then, the CU has expanded the program to partner with San Jose State University and other local schools.
Meyer went into a local elementary school, Shirakawa Senior Elementary School, one day a week for three weeks to teach the program's Real World Financial classes to seventh graders.
"I taught three classes on budgeting, investing and lending and I got over 70 thank you letters from the students."
In the upcoming school year, Meyer will go back to Shirakawa to teach the same program to incoming seventh graders and engage eighth graders in a six-week model stock market program.
Meriwest will give the students a virtual $1,000 to spend however they choose on stock. Meyer will come into the school each week to teach a 15-minute session on investments to the students, and at the end of the six weeks, the most profitable student will be declared the winner.
At San Jose State, Meyer partnered with a fraternity to teach a credit myths class on how to manage and repair credit. At the end, Meyer passes out a packet of information that includes a prepared letter for attendees to send when addressing inaccurate or invalid statements on their credit report.
New to the program next year, Meyer will be teaching the treasurers of events teams, clubs and fraternities at the university how to manage a budget.
Meriwest also holds these same financial education classes at its headquarters. The credit myths class is the most popular, Meyer said.
The credit union has a training room with stadium seating for 36 people and two large screens to hold the sessions.
"A program like this is something any other credit union can do. You can supply refreshments at a small cost and if you can create a power point presentation and have room to seat people it's easily duplicated."
In anticipation that the program will continue to attract members of the community over the next year, Meyer said he is going to be training branch managers to hold sessions on their own.
"We have a lot of really bright capable people here. They're just nervous. It's just about training and seeing how it's done."