VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A focus on area schools has helped Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union transform its image from a vendor to a community partner. “We wanted to be viewed as a real part of the school system and a benefit rather than just someplace you cash your checks,” said VBSFCU Vice President of Marketing Amy Wisilosky. “And if you have a small or no marketing budget you have to go out there, pound the pavement and get involved with everyone from students and teachers to the PTA – because not only is it `nice to do’ but you do eventually get noticed by the movers and shakers.” For the past two years Wisilosky has been busy positioning the $53 million credit union as a school system resource and so far the hard work is paying off. Since March 2004, VBSFCU has provided free personal finance material to each Virginia Beach City Public School high school. According to Wisilosky, at least one teacher in each high school utilizes the materials developed by the credit union and/or the NEFE High School Financial Planning Program. VBSFCU also has a presence in area middle schools. In addition, not only does Wisilosky have an upcoming appointment scheduled with Deputy Superintendent Dr. Sheila Magula and Superintendent of Curriculum/Instruction Dr. Christine Caskey to discuss creating a personal finance class elective at all the high schools but the credit union has also increased its services per household from 1.85 in June 2003 to 1.94 in June 2004 and its loan-to-share ratio from 47.7% to 61.25%. “Our focus has been the personal finance angle and the key is identifying the pulse of what is needed and making sure you keep participating in school activities because teachers talk and are grassroots through and through,” said Wisilosky. “Teachers have such a heavy workload that when you can give them a complete program where the work is all done for them you’re like a hero. It is amazing how many teachers who meet me are now making that connection and saying, `You’re the credit union that helps teachers, right?’ and then they ask for NEFE materials, check registers or checks, which we are thrilled to provide. You couldn’t pay for that kind of advertising.” In addition to serving as a guest speaker, offering free lesson plans and providing tours of VBSFCU facilities, Wisilosky is a member of Advisory Link, which is a volunteer group organized by the school system that brings community leaders together to help improve the school system. Currently she is on a committee to brainstorm ideas about how to help more parents become partners in education. “It was great because a local public service station was taping the session and I had an opportunity to show how financial literacy is a great way to get parents involved; they can show their kids how math really makes a difference and the students can relate what they learn at school to real life examples,” said Wisilosky. “It’s a win for everyone. Parents are the voice of schools and they help drive what they want their kids to learn in school. If there is no PTA in your community then get in touch with Junior Achievement, DECA, Future Business Leaders, Boy or Girl Scouts – just reach out to educate the youth market. In 10 years when that middle school student is looking for a loan for his or her first car they’ll remember your credit union as a trusted advisor and source for unbiased information.” Wisilosky has also restructured the VBSFCU Web site with an educational/life event focus. “It is about making life easier for teachers, parents and students so if we can have a link available that someone can just click for more information then we show ourselves as a trusted advisor and that is huge” said Wisilosky. “It takes a huge commitment but it is worth it to share these important life skills because beyond the recognition we are making a real difference in members’ lives and that is what we are here for.”

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