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My Ride for Missing Children

May 24th, 2016

Child signs Tom Neumann's Ride jerseyFirst Source is privileged to have the ability to support many worthy organizations and causes in our area. One that we support and participate in year after year is The Ride For Missing Children, and I am honored to be personally involved.

It is a cause that is near and dear to so many, due to its beginnings right here in our community. A tragedy, turned into a positive and empowering movement. The Ride touches on many issues that are important to First Source, including education, prevention, positive action, and support. It also touches many diverse groups, including children, educators, parents, and law enforcement.

Once it was decided that First Source was going to be involved in 2008, I knew I wanted to play a bigger role personally. Starting as a Rider, I was thrilled to join a truly amazing group of dedicated and caring people. I was proud to get to know them and call them family. As the years progressed and I became more engaged year after year, I felt a stronger connection, and the ride took on a deeper and more personal meaning. I got to know family members of missing children, the teachers and kids at the schools, our local law enforcement, NCMEC Staff members and volunteers…countless people giving of themselves, dedicated to a common cause.

An opportunity came for me to volunteer and share my expertise and skills on the Ride’s Steering Committee. It felt good to provide additional assistance in a different capacity. I still Ride and volunteer, and I am really looking forward to this year’s milestone 20th Anniversary Ride on Friday, June 3rd. This will be my 7th year. As they say, may the wind be at our backs and the sun on our face, as we all do our part to make our children safer…one child at a time.

– Tom Neumann, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer

LMV Day 9: Overcoming Obstacles

April 29th, 2016

Brenda at Art & Vine
This is a bittersweet entry for me…reflecting on our last LMV program day. All that’s left is our project presentation and graduation. What a journey this has been! It was undeniably one of my favorite days, very interactive and engaging.

Our day started at the ARC, Oneida-Lewis Chapter, a fitting location for the theme of our day: Human Services. Inspired Life Coach Rebeccah Silence led our class on a personal, introspective journey focused on leadership. In a smaller group setting with our project team members, we each opened up about our thoughts, fears, and inner feelings about leadership. Being with our project team members, with whom we have had more opportunity to become close and comfortable, enabled us to feel more comfortable opening up. I was nervous that people would not be comfortable sharing personal feelings and being vulnerable in this setting, but Rebeccah asked appropriately probing questions, and kept it within the scope of leadership and business. It worked well.

I’m inherently a very introspective and honest person, so this was a great exercise for me. I was happy to see it work well for others, too. It’s interesting, because I’m not usually the one to speak up first. I typically listen to others, and process what’s been said. Then only if there is really something new to add, do I interject. For this exercise, I was one of the first to engage in our group.

One great takeaway for me was a new way to think about obstacles. When you meet an obstacle along the way to your goal, don’t interpret it as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. The obstacle is a test of our commitment. If we are not truly committed, we will give up on the goal. Maybe it was the wrong goal for us. When we are fully committed to the goal set and our whole heart is in it, we will push past any obstacles that present themselves. If you back away from the obstacle, then perhaps that goal was not the right goal for you. That is okay. Start looking for the right one.

The day also brought a fun surprise as we headed to Art & Vine for a painting exercise. We all received the very same instructions to paint the very same painting, yet each of us produced a version that was “uniquely our own.” It was a great visual for seeing that everyone tackles projects differently, yielding different results as we each approach it with our own skills and perspectives. It was also a great lesson in collaboration, seeing how people learn from one another and share ideas, and seeing how a possible mistake could be redirected and adjusted to be made beautiful. Then it got interesting…

Once we were done, we were asked to move and work on a new painting—one that was not our own. You’ve put all this work into your painting, making choices and doing it your way. And now you have to turn this over to someone else. Will they enhance your painting or will they wreck it? You have to trust that they will do the best they can and add value. And now, you too have to touch someone else’s work. Do you see the direction they were going in and take the same path? Or do you add your own flare? Really a great metaphor for multi-layer projects with a team of participants in the real world.

Finally, we visited the Root Farm. What an impressive facility this is. I was amazed at the progress, and so proud that something like this exists right in my home town of Sauquoit. It was really cool to see how much they’ve done to allow for both the able-bodied, and those with disabilities, to enjoy their experience at the farm. The animal therapy and connectedness to nature made me feel right at home there. I gained some inspiration to take back to our Children’s Museum project.

Often on a program day, a group gathers after the day is done. I don’t always attend, but as it was our last program day, I really felt the desire to keep the day going. I found myself not wanting it to end. There was a different energy, as we felt this chapter coming to a close. I realized that while this was an extension of work for me and included additional responsibilities and projects, it was also nice to be a student again, to learn and to be inspired. I will miss it, and I will want to make sure I continue to find my own avenues to be inspired. I hope our connections continue, and I look forward to seeing our project through to completion. After funding is secured, I’d like to volunteer to make our vision of the space come to life.

Regarding our project: it’s just about complete. We have our final plan in place, with final schematics to present. Now we just have to ensure we appropriately communicate our ideas on Graduation Day. That is the morning we deliver our presentation. We’re ready, and just adding the final touches.

The LMV program has proven to be a wonderful self-discovery opportunity for me, pulling resting concepts from the back of my mind to the forefront, where they can now be active. LMV has made me realize that now is the time to make positive changes, to make real lifestyle adjustments I’ll be able to carry through moving forward.

LMV was the perfect companion for me as I ended up on an unplanned tandem journey—through LMV and through my work at First Source. At the beginning of LMV, my work role was focused on day-to-day work and procedural needs. At LMV I was learning what it takes to be innovative and develop a vision of the future. Simultaneously, my role at First Source was changing to a more innovative role. It’s rewarding, and what I learned at LMV has helped me with that transition. It’s still daunting, but it’s a welcome challenge.

I’ve always been analytic, focusing on how I can do things differently, and better. So this is not necessarily new. However, I now have new tools, tangible examples to draw from. My world view is bigger. Through our project, I have a true sense of ownership. If it weren’t for LMV, I wouldn’t have known I could help the Children’s Museum’s outdoor space, or discovered the treasure that is the Root Farm. These are places where I can see my family getting involved and volunteering together. I look forward to sharing this with them.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant

Judging Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

April 15th, 2016

SUNY Poly Collegiate Business Plan CompetitionAs part of the New York State Business Plan Competition, SUNY Polytechnic Institute hosted the Mohawk Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition: Regional Qualifier. Katie Ullman, Marketing Supervisor at First Source Federal Credit Union, participated for her third year as one of the judges.

“This is such an inspiring day,” Katie said. “I really look forward to it. These budding entrepreneurs come in armed with ideas and presentations that they’ve been pouring their soul into. We are an integral step for them to learn and grow, and potentially move on to the state qualifier in Albany and win prize money to fund their concepts. It’s very cool to share our knowledge and expertise with them and be a part of their journey.”

There were 4 categories: Products/Services, Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit, Energy/Sustainability, and Information Technology/Software. Each category had multiple groups present. Some are still in the infancy concept phase, while others have full business plans, cost/income analyses, and even prototypes.

Each group gets 10 minutes to pitch/present to the judge’s panel, and 5 minutes of Q/A time. Then each is graded individually using a standard rubric. Once they have all presented, the judges gather as a panel and really discuss each candidate, their concept, concept need within the marketplace, competition, concept development, presentation, costs, success potential, etc., and final decisions are made on advancement.

“One of last year’s winners came back to present to the group this year. It was so gratifying to see his growth and the success of his business,” Ullman added. “He was a true inspiration to the collegiate competitors in the room this year. As someone in marketing, I was thrilled to hear him tell the group how important it is to think about your marketing up front, develop your brand, live your brand, and make sure you get a well-designed, timeless, relevant logo to showcase what your business is all about. He gave the competitors very pertinent, real-life business advice.”

The regional qualifier competition drew interest from 13 student teams from nine accredited New York colleges and universities. All came to pitch their game-changing business proposals, for a chance to reach the final round and win part of the more than $500,000 in total prizes. Semifinal round competitions in nine other regions across New York have either already been held, or are scheduled to take place prior to the final round. That round is expected to draw hundreds to SUNY Poly’s Albany NanoTech Complex on April 29, 2016, when the best student teams from each region will go head-to-head. One grand prize winner will be announced, and will earn $50,000 cash and more than $50,000 in in-kind services.

Six teams advanced as regional finalists, and will head to Albany:

Information Technology/Software Category
• NPMWare – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• Travelsee – SUNY Oneonta, Cornell University

Energy/Sustainability Category
• Underground Greens – Mohawk Valley Community College

Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit Category
• Vets2Farm – Morrisville State College

Products/Services Category
• Vertica Entertainment – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• My Wine Class – Fulton Montgomery Community College

Congratulations to all who participated in another successful event! And thanks to SUNY Poly for the invitation. We can’t wait for next year!

First Source Helps Choose Young Scholars

April 13th, 2016

Young Scholars Selection CommitteeWe’ve written about the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program (YSLPP) before, and our new entry takes you behind the scenes. This multi-year collaborative project between Utica College and the Utica City School District (UCSD) is designed to motivate talented students to stay in school, earn a New York State Regents Diploma, and pursue post-secondary education.

Each year, Young Scholars serves approximately 350 students from grades 7 through 12. UCSD teachers nominate students in sixth grade—those who possess potential for success in secondary and post-secondary school, but who may not achieve their full potential due to social and economic factors—and the finalists are selected by a panel of professionals from the area.

Chosen students receive mentoring, counseling by social workers, a summer program prepping them for the following school year, college and career exploration, community service, and enrichment activities.

This year, Pam Way, our Community Relations Specialist, was on the selection committee, a group charged with the difficult task of narrowing 160 candidates down to 60 students. Once a year, this group meets to review the nominated students, and select those who will go on in the program.

“I was honored to have been asked to join the Young Scholars selection committee, and take part in the process of selecting the newest cohort of Young Scholars students,” Pam said. “There were up to 30 educators and community leaders present on selection day, and I was paired with several educators who were familiar with the process.”

Each set of 3 committee members received 15 student files containing students’ last 3 years of grades, attendance records, disciplinary records, teachers’ nominations, personal essays, student interviews, and parent/guardian questionnaires.

“I felt the moisture in my eyes gather as I read their personal appeals for help,” Pam relates. “It was very difficult to choose one deserving child over another. You can change one child’s future, and at the same time, severely disappoint another.

“It was amazing to see how these sixth grade students really knew what the Young Scholars program was all about! Their essays described how being selected would shape them as students and individuals, and give them a greater balance of academic, personal, and social growth. There are many factors to consider. To say the decisions were difficult is an understatement.”

The program has proven quite successful. Program graduates have a 93% graduation rate, 88% with regents or advanced regents diplomas, and since 2005, 86% of them have enrolled in college. A number of YSLPP students have served as summer interns in the local community, and the program’s partnership with Workforce Development has provided hundreds of its students with summer jobs.

We are very excited to have partnered with Utica College’s Young Scholars Program, and feel that their goals align very well with our community mission. We are already working to expand our partnership to help fulfill the dreams of more of our youth here in the Mohawk Valley, with job shadowing and internships for Young Scholars interested in banking and/or financing, donations of tools to teach Financial Literacy in their summer program, and plans to team up with Young Scholars this fall for community giveback for the Stevens-Swan Humane Society.

Easy Savings for Kids

April 6th, 2016

Start saving youngFor kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.

Each time “income” (like birthday money) comes along, together decide how much they should put in the Spend jar, to get something they really want right now and can afford. Then look at how much can go in the Save jar, for that more expensive item they need to wait for. Then how much they might want to Donate to a child who’s not as fortunate as they are.

Parents can use this approach on a more sophisticated level, with a “Club” or “Special Purpose” account. A Club account is a savings share that you create for whatever it is you’d like: a vacation, planning for the holidays, concerts, or other events. You get the idea. You can auto-transfer a set amount from each paycheck, and start saving today! You can open this type of “Special Purpose” share right through memberONLINE.

It Pays to Save…Literally

April 6th, 2016

Save early with compound interest“Compound interest” is an important term to be familiar with. Let’s say you’re in your early 20’s, just graduated from college, and got a job making roughly $35K. You save about $5,000/year for retirement. Let’s say you do this for 10 years, saving a total of $50K. Then something happens, you have a life change and end up not contributing any more to this initial savings. Your existing savings will still continue to grow until you retire when you’re 65.

Now let’s say instead, you were unable to save right away. But at around 40, you had a secure job making roughly $75K, and then you can start to save. So you save $10K/year for 10 years, saving a total of $100K. At 50, you have a life change and cannot contribute any more. But your initial savings grow until you retire at 65.

In both scenarios, let’s say your investment grew at 10% per year. At age 65, your totals would be very different. The “you” who started saving in your early 20’s would have a little over $1 million to retire. The “you” who started saving at 40, even though you contributed more, would have only a little more than $500,000.

Why? Time.

Investments take time to grow, and the longer you have, the better. So even if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s better to start saving even a little now, than waiting to save more later.

For young kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.


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