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Home > Credit Union Philosophy > Collaboration Prepares Students to Be Financially Smart

Collaboration Prepares Students to be Financially Smart

There is more to life fitness than eating healthy, exercising and stretching. Knowing how to manage money is a critical component of living a healthy life.

A partnership between three Great Falls non-profits provides students with critical life skills by teaching financial literacy and upon completion contributes funds to help them open a savings account.

For the past 8 years, students at Paris Gibson Alternative Education Center have participated in Financial Fitness for Life, a program designed to deliver engaging and thoughtful financial education to school-aged children who are educationally at-risk.

Brooklyn White, a Paris Gibson student, said the program really got her thinking about the future.

“Financial Fitness taught me that it’s important to save at my age so I can be set for my life,” White said. “The teachers are amazing and made things easier to understand.”

The three-week course is provided three days a week at the school through a partnership between Rural Dynamics, Great Falls Teachers Federal Credit Union, and United Way of Cascade County. Since inception, 74 percent of the accounts opened are maintained and 26 are scheduled to complete it this month.

Julie McCamley, marketing director at the Great Falls Teachers Credit Union, said participating in the program is exactly what credit unions were designed to do.

“Credit unions were originally started so we could help one another,” she said. “Often times as credit unions we are serving the underserved and providing the one-on-one financial business with people in our communities. It’s never about who has the most money and making a profit.”

McCamley said opening an account through the program is the first time many students have stepped into a financial institution.

“Bringing them into the credit union really disarms any fears they would have about coming through the doors,” she said. “The students are very receptive.”

Jennifer Lehman, director of outreach and resource development for RDI, said the Financial Fitness for Life program provides aspects of money management including income and wages, spending plans, the importance of saving responsibly, borrowing, and investing. She said by helping today’s at-risk youth, they gain financial tools early in life, which helps pave the road to a financially secure future.

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