FERNDALE, Mich. – There is no “kids club” at Credit Union ONE, yet for over 15 years the credit union has been quietly building a financial education “empire” in the community. “We just don’t have that distinction, we just have the credit union and I guess that is the club,” said CU ONE President/CEO Armando Cavazos. “It has worked for us so far.” In addition to providing scholarships, internships and promoting financial education throughout the Hispanic community, CU ONE has partnered with the Rochester, Ferndale and Utica school districts to teach financial planning courses, and mentored first graders at local elementary schools in Grand Rapids through the Junior Achievement “Our Families” program. With a diverse membership ranging from those with annual household incomes of $20,000 to those with annual household incomes of $180,000 and diverse geographic areas, the education is the common ground says Cavazos. The $605 million credit union’s latest effort is distributing CUKids financial education software at all branches through the end of this month. The software is free to any child who opens an account with $25 or more and can also be purchased by anyone for $15. Developed by ParentWare Software Designer David Hunt, the CUKids CD is geared to children ages six to 12 and teaches the importance of personal financial planning through interactive games while also providing life skills needed for future financial independence. Some of the topics covered include saving, spending, debt avoidance and basic financial product knowledge. Children can create accounts for savings, checking, charitable donations and the holidays. There are also check writing features and auto deposit capabilities to give children an allowance, track spending habits and create a structured savings plan. In addition, CUKids sets up a list of chores and periodic reviews of the accounts to determine raises or justify bonus deposits. “When I go to the schools I tell the kids it is their choice and they can’t make excuses,” said Cavazos. “It’s like ice cream it doesn’t start to be bad for you until you gorge yourself with two gallons a day. Credit and money are not bad it is just how you decide it will be used to fulfill the purpose in your life.” The financial software also helps create dialogue between parents and children thanks to the ease and convenience of direct links to Credit Union ONE’s Web site and GooglePlex, a Web site for children featuring fun and educational money games. “I think the great thing about this is that it gets parents engaged with their children,” said Cavazos. “We all need refresher courses. If this software is helping parents get more involved with their children then we’ve created something even more valuable. For kids they learn that they need to work to earn and if they earn and spend they have to find a way to build it up again so it teaches them how to set a goal and shoot for something they want while planning the steps they need to take to achieve it. It is a positive for everyone.” In just one month so far 120 CUKids CDs have been distributed. In the future CU ONE hopes to make the software available to local elementary schools as an enhancement to curriculum. “We really believe that we have a higher purpose than just offering loans and savings accounts,” said Cavazos. “We want to change society in a positive way and going into the schools, providing the internships and even this software are tangible ways for us to say `Yes this is what it is all about and we are having an impact.’ We want to be the place where members go to for trusted advice and direction.” [email protected]

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