WASHINGTON – No matter how much spirit and optimism it contains, there is almost no way to escape the initial impression that the building housing H.D. Woodson High School, in Washington DC, really houses a prison and not an institution of learning. Its walls rise, concrete and sadly bunker-like, over some of the meanest streets in Washington D.C. As the only high school in the District of Columbia’s Seventh Ward, Woodson draws from some of the city’s most neglected and almost forgotten neighborhoods and residential areas. In addition to the city’s highest unemployment rate and little economic development, gun violence is endemic in the area. On September first, one of the school’s 2004 graduates was gunned down outside his home as he sat on the stoop. But despite the surrounding negativity which might be expected to pull the school down, the institution keeps going and, starting in mid-October, will house the newest branch of the $125 million HEW FCU, a credit union which was founded in 1936 and which was granted the entire city of Washington D.C. as an underserved area in October of 2003. “From the start we had the idea that if we are going to start building the traditions of sound community development and serving some of these underserved areas, we were going to have to begin in the schools,” explained Brian O’Sullivan, marketing director for the credit union. He said HEW was further encouraged about the school idea after working to sign up credit union members in some of the neighborhoods that feed the school. The credit union attended and participated in activities such as Family Back To School community events, occasions when O’Sullivan explained that credit union staff got a much closer look at how much enthusiasm and desire there was among people for credit union services. The path forward to having a branch at Woodson has not always been clear, however, O’Sullivan added. DC’s public school system has a reputation for being the most troubled and chaotic in the region and while O’Sullivan didn’t comment on any problems with the school system, he did remark that the credit union had found greater success in working directly with Woodson’s administrative staff than going through the school system. He said the effort had also received the support and attention from D.C. Council Members Sandy Allen and Kevin Chavez, but acknowledged that could be problematic as well since both elected officials lost their Democratic primary races earlier in September. “No matter who the Council representatives are,” O’Sullivan said, “I am sure we will seek their support as well.” Although the credit union’s branch will offer primarily share accounts and financial education to students, O’Sullivan said the branch would offer a full range of credit union products and services to parents, volunteers and school staff that are over age 18. He also explained that the branch would be administered on a day- to-day basis by the students and would actually handle a certain amount of cash. The credit union’s student branch workers would only be junior and seniors students and have to attend a summer training session on credit union products and procedures, O’Sullivan said. “We found this summer’s students to be eager and mature, ready for the responsibility. We anticipate having the branch open in the school in a couple of weeks,” O’Sullivan said -

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