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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Credit unions haven’t had much competition when it comes to financial literacy programs from their banking counter parts, but it appears banks are trying to step up their efforts. Considering recent announcements from such banking giants as Citigroup and Bank of America it seems bankers may be jockeying to position themselves as “the” financial education resource for consumers and a community “investor”. Bank of America Charitable Investments has recently launched a two-year, $15 million program called the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, “to recognize, nurture and reward organizations, local heroes and student leaders – in 30 of the bank’s major communities across the country – that are helping rebuild and revitalize their neighborhoods.” “To help these communities succeed, we had to look beyond the, `one size fits all approach,’ and develop a program that supports and nurtures the various stakeholders that together make their neighborhoods vibrant and successful,” said Andrew Plepler, president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The Neighborhood Excellence Initiative is composed of three programs: Neighborhood Builders, which provides $200,000 in grant funding and leadership training over the course of two years to two neighborhood nonprofit organizations working to promote vibrant neighborhoods; Local Heroes, which recognizes and honors five community heroes per year in each of the 30 selected communities whose achievements and leadership on local issues contributes significantly to neighborhood vitality. Recipients will be able to direct a $5,000 contribution to an eligible nonprofit of their choice and will be celebrated at a public ceremony; and Student Leaders, which recognizes five high school students in their junior or senior years in each of the 30 designated communities. To further their personal and educational growth, each student will participate in an eight-week paid summer internship with a community-based organization, as well as a mentorship program arranged by the bank. “It is an interesting strategy, the banks are trying to take what credit unions do best and use it as quite the photo opportunity,” said 20-year old brass

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