OLYMPIA, Wash. – Match up kids, credit unions and technology, and throw in a popular national program, and a future generation can whiz into the world of high finances. Kevin Foster-Keddie, president of Washington State Employees CU (WSECU) in Olympia, challenged his staff to "do something a little different" for their CU's take-off on the national program, "Take Your Child to Work Day." A creative three-person committee of staffers responded to the call for action. They developed an innovative and interactive approach to the national program. With just a week before the event, the group brought in WSECU Webmaster Nathan Clinton, a marketing staff member and other technical expertise. Sadeeq Simmons coordinated the event, along with staffers Tami Gritton, Heidi Tinsley, Laura Lawrence, Jim Heitzman and Debra Weller. Fourteen employees contributed effort to the project – either as tour guides, technicians, toy store managers or buyers. The team created a virtual branch, using the latest technology for a group of 30 students, mostly elementary, but some teenagers, to make deposits and withdrawals using a video link into the WSECU Call Center. The staff gave the children one opportunity most adult members have never experienced. Team member, senior media coordinator Jim Heitzman, said, "The kids had the advantage of seeing the inside of an ATM while members were using it. Of course, the kids made all sorts of funny voices – a la Candid Camera – to unsuspecting users. They also saw $180,000 in a plastic bag in the vault, and this was a big hit. We allowed them to try and lift the bag, which was quite heavy." The students, all children of WSECU staff, started the day with mock account balances of $50 each. "This money is fake!" said one unbelieving youngster when he saw the money they would be handling. Another had a more positive view, saying, "They have lots and lots of money here!" They could spend the money until the end of the morning and have twice the amount, or a combination of the two. WSECU staffers also loaded the corporate headquarters Training Center with three long tables full of enticing toys, candy and gadgets. Spend or save. This was their dilemma of the day. Webmaster Clinton set up video conferencing capabilities with the WSECU Call Center and then enlisted the aid of Member Service Officer Deborah Frye, who walked the kids through the deposit and withdrawal process. The kids and Frye were able to watch each other on a personal computer set up at each end. The approach broke tradition of many other places where the kids simply hear speeches, tour where their parents work, or sit with their mom or dad while she or he works. "We wanted to make this event really special for the kids. A revolution in financial services delivery is going on right now," explained Foster-Keddie. "They could also work in this technology-rich environment, if they choose to follow in their parents' footsteps." A special Web page was created after the event. Photos, sound bites and a story were established on the CU's Web site; this way the kids could experience the labor of their special high-tech financial workday at a credit union. – [email protected]

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