The Crash Network has chosen 16 young credit union professionals to attend CUNA's 2011 GAC and complete a service project designed to improve their credit unions or the industry.
Created in 2010, the Crash Network is a way for those under 30 to become more deeply involved in the industry.
"It was a privilege last year to attend [CUNA's GAC] and network with the best and brightest credit unions have to offer," said Brent Dixon, young adult adviser with the Filene Research Institute and Crash Network founder. "Crash the GAC was the spark for what has become a completely grassroots young professionals group,"
The official Crash the GAC sponsor, PSCU Financial Services, will cover the cost of Crashers' lodging, meals and reception. CUNA's Center for Professional Development has offered scholarships for attendees. Out of 59 applicants, the young professionals who will attend the GAC this year were chosen by a panel of eight. Below are brief profiles of the chosen 16.
Brandon Michaels is chief financial officer at Mazuma Credit Union, Kansas City, Mo. Michaels is treasurer/secretary of the CUNA CFO Council's executive committee and chair of the council's annual conference planning committee. He is a third-generation credit union executive; his mother is CEO of Western Healthcare FCU in Concord, Calif., and his grandmother is a retired CEO of the former Avon Refinery FCU, also in Concord. Michaels was an examiner for three years for the FDIC.
Amber Renick is a member service officer at First Capital FCU, York, Penn. In May 2010 Renick was awarded with the title of "Pennsylvania Credit Union Youth Ambassador" and has been traveling and speaking on the theme of connecting credit unions with younger generations. She has also appeared on a recent televised edition of "Pennsylvania Newsmakers," in which she explained ways to build credit and avoid high interest rates.
Kelly Griego is an executive benefits sales and service representative at CUNA Mutual Group. Prior to joining CUNA Mutual in 2008, Griego worked at Ameriprise Financial and New England Financial. He served in several capacities, including as a financial adviser and wealth management associate. He has a bachelor of science in behavioral science and law from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as Series 7 and 66 licenses and life, accident and health licenses.
Amanda Thomas is a marketing and business development manager at Members First Credit Union, Columbus, Ohio. As marketing and business development manager, Thomas's primary responsibilities include leveraging network, social media and marketing strategies to grow membership, ongoing brand development, community outreach, public relations, and the development and execution of the credit union's marketing and business development plans.
Robert Lefkowicz is a service center manager at Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla. Lefkowicz began his credit union career at OMNI Community CU in Battle Creek, Mich., after graduating from Western Michigan University. After moving to Suncoast Schools FCU, he ascended through the member representative positions to become a manager. Lefkowicz has earned the CCUE, CFSP and CLS CUNA certifications and is currently completing his MBA at the University of Wisconsin.
Shannon Maloney is director of marketing at Seasons Federal Credit Union, Middletown, Conn. Maloney has served five years in the marketing department at Seasons FCU, working her way up from summer intern to director of marketing. A second-generation credit union advocate, she has a bachelor's degree in advertising from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Ronaldo Hardy is a branch coordinator at La Capitol Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La. Hardy started his career in banking nine years ago and joined La Capitol FCU in 2004. During his tenure in the financial industry, he has served in several roles, including teller, personal banker, loan underwriter, member service supervisor and electronic services supervisor. Hardy was a recent runner-up in CUES' Next Top Credit Union Exec competition.
Sasha Kemble is a trainer and silver-lining specialist at Verity Credit Union, Seattle. Kemble began her credit union career in 2005 at Whatcom Educational Credit Union in Bellingham, Wash., and joined the team at Verity CU in 2009. As the credit union's trainer and silver-lining specialist, she seeks to develop and support staff in their roles and help people create the opportunities that connect them to the credit union movement.
Melissa Polley is a member communications specialist at the Wisconsin CU League. As the league's member communications specialist, Polley writes and edits league publications. She also coordinates the league's social media efforts. In 2010, Polley took on a new role as liaison for the league's young professionals council. In that capacity she helps facilitate a statewide young professionals network that encourages CU employees to learn about the movement.
Chris Wolgamott is a community development liaison at Meritrust Credit Union, Wichita, Kan. Wolgamott has been in the credit union industry for almost 13 years at Meritrust and BECU in Seattle. He spends his time developing and teaching financial literacy classes to schools and nonprofit organizations in Wichita and throughout Kansas. Wolgamott earned his bachelor's degree from Wichita State University and his master's from Kansas State University.
Alexia Mavrakes is a senior marketing associate at Aspire Federal Credit Union, Clark, N.J. Upon graduating from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in English and a double major in Spanish, Mavrakes was hired by Aspire FCU, then known as FAA Eastern Region FCU. During the credit union's name change and rebranding project, she worked closely with the executive staff to ensure that employee and member communication about the change was informative and positive.
Michael Langhorst is an assistant vice president/branch manager at CFE FCU, Lake Mary, Fla. Langhorst started his career at CFE FCU at age 23 and has worked with the credit union for almost eight years. In 2007, he was promoted to his current position. Langhorst is also site manager for the credit union's volunteer income tax assistance program, as well as a graduate of the CUNA Management School, where he was elected president by a group of his peers during his first year.
Jennifer Jenkins is lead marketing manager at PSECU, Harrisburg, Penn. Jenkins has been employed by PSECU for seven years. Her first encounter with a credit union was through a college internship. As lead marketing manager, she oversees all marketing projects, including PSECU's government relations materials and communications to members. She is a member of Harrisburg Young Professionals and is studying corporate communications and business at Elizabethtown College.
Whitney Thompson is a member service officer at American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia. Thompson is the leader of a financial literacy program with inner city students and is a mentor and role model for foster children in her neighborhood. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia with degrees in finance and real estate, Thompson is currently pursuing her MBA at Arcadia University in Philadelphia.
Lisa Totaro is marketing associate at Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y. Totaro has worked in the credit union industry for nearly four years. She is a piloting member of the Credit Union Association of New York's Young Professionals Commission, which seeks to develop strategies and practices that help the state's credit unions recruit and develop young adults as employees and volunteers. She also serves on the Women's Business Council steering committee for the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. Totaro is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in American studies.
Sean Capaloff-Jones is a manager of member outreach at UMassFive College FCU, Hadley, Mass. Capaloff-Jones received his bachelor's degree in history from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 2009 and spent his time in college working at a collectively run student business. He has been working in his current position as manager of member outreach at UMassFive College FCU since October 2010. He serves as the liaison for all credit union sponsor groups and coordinates the credit union's financial literacy, community involvement and public affairs initiatives.