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HOUSTON – Shell Employees Federal Credit Union took financial literacy to a whole new level with a simple invitation for “A Night to Remember”. In addition to providing some 125 less privileged Houston area graduating high school young women with the skills for making sound financial decisions for their future, the event also helped the seniors find the perfect prom dress. “I was a single mom and I know what it’s like to find ways to stretch your money for so many activities for your children that by the time the prom comes around it can be a struggle,” said Shell Employees FCU Corporate Outreach Representative Linda Birt. “I got the idea while talking to my daughter who is now an engineer working on the PhD track, about how many dresses we’ve accumulated that have only been worn once-wouldn’t it be great to be able to give them away to help people around prom time.” Birt says almost immediately it was approved, and the decision was made to create an event that would not only offer dresses, jewelry, shoes and purses but also provide lessons on everything from etiquette and beauty tips to career development and higher education. “Sometimes when you’re disadvantaged it’s hard to see beyond your community, and we wanted to let them know through the booth sponsors that your current existence doesn’t have to be your future,” said Birt. “We all want the American dream, and financial education is a tool and great way to help them make it a reality.” Birt says the outpouring of support from within the credit union movement and the schools to church groups, bridal shops, jewelers and the community at large helped pull together an event within a mere 35 days. Wanting to reach as many high school seniors as possible, the credit union focused on the Houston Independent School District, which covers the entire city and has the largest group of disadvantaged young women. Thanks to the generosity of companies such as Hyatt Regency Houston, Kohl’s Department Stores, Mary Kay cosmetics, Shell Black Networking group, the National Society of Black Engineers, Shell Chemical Deer Park, the Deer Park Education Foundation, The Greensheet, Marriott Hotel, West Houston Chamber of Commerce, Houston Area Women’s Center, Landau Jewelry and the Texas Credit Union Foundation, the credit union spent less than $500 total for the event, which went to promotion and marketing. In order to draw as many young women as possible Birt says posters, signs and flyers were designed to dazzle. The “Night to Remember” theme was played up the entire day after the financial literacy portion, complete with a “dance card” to be filled at each booth and opportunities to win gift certificates for tuxes, corsages, spa treatments and more. Once attendees were done making the rounds they were whisked away to an Enchanted Runway to select from at least 500 new and gently used prom gowns or dresses and accessories. “There was simply a beautiful selection to choose from. Children are our greatest asset, if we don’t invest in them then we’re not allowing them to reach their potential,” said Birt. “Talk about being creative and coming outside the box-this event has not only really helped build self esteem for these young women, but the schools and students know who we are and are looking forward to next year’s event. It’s the credit union philosophy in action.” [email protected]

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