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Getting Started: Teaching Community Kids Financial Skills

August 1st, 2016

Happy students in classFirst Source, initially founded as Utica Teachers Federal Credit Union in 1938, has deep roots in education, so financial literacy is very important to us. When people learn good financial habits at an early age, they benefit throughout their lifetimes. That is why we’ve offered the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) program for many years. We also now sponsor the Banzai Financial Literacy Program, along with a dedicated Schools Relationship Coordinator, to help students learn to spend and save wisely. The program serves middle and high school students, and a new program for elementary students will be launched later this year.

The curriculum includes lessons in written and interactive online forms, and takes students through real-life adult financial scenarios where they “choose their destination” as they go. From navigating taxes to paying auto insurance, they learn skills they can use in their lives as they become financially more independent.

Participants learn to track and manage their money, make financial trade-offs, practice discipline, and make sound financial decisions. When we visit the class, we show them how to build and maintain credit, the pitfalls of revolving debt, and offer a real-world perspective that (we hope!) students will carry with them.

The online learning center also offers relationship builders for the students. Once their course is completed, if they open a new First Source youth account, we will deposit $10 in their savings!

Our biggest reward is the thanks we get from teachers and students.

Teachers Say...

Thank you so much for your sponsorship of the Banzai Financial Literacy Program in local schools! This month I had 115 students in my 7th grade Home and Careers classes complete the Banzai program. I liked how Life Scenarios presented real-world financial situations and budgeting decisions that students will face in the near future.

During the last 2 weeks of school when it’s difficult to keep students’ attention, the Banzai program engaged my students in the online curriculum, and had them asking excellent questions. Many of them were excited to have me fill out their completion certificate to take home to their parents, and one student even brought his into First Source to open an account! Thank you for sponsoring this valuable life skills curriculum for my students. Many Thanks!

– Mrs. Kristy Aldrich, Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Holland Patent Middle School

Thank you so much for sponsoring the Clinton Middle School! We sincerely appreciate your generous contribution and love the financial literacy program. We have had many wonderful class discussions based on the scenarios and the content that the Banzai Program has provided our students! Thank you once again!!

– Miquel Grimm

Thank you for providing the materials to use in my business classes this year. It will enhance the interactive process in my classroom. Being able to use real life scenarios to engage the students makes teaching financial concepts simple. Once again thank you.

– Terry Stanimer, Notre Dame High School

Students Say...

“I learned how to space out my money responsibly, and how to be smart with payments/paychecks.”

“I learned that financial goals are hard to achieve if you don’t save properly.”

“I learned how to keep money and use it wisely on things I need. As well as how to say no to something when I don’t have enough money.”

“I learned how to manage my bank account.”

“I realized it’s hard to manage money! It’s not just telling yourself to remember to buy this or that, you actually need different accounts/jars for different things.”

“I learned the consequences of being in debt.”

“I learned that life can take unexpected turns and that sometimes you have to sacrifice luxuries for your bills.”

“I learned to be prepared for accidents and emergencies.”

“To be honest I didn’t know much of anything about checking accounts, credit cards and managing money. Now I feel like at least I know a little more than I did before, which is good to go into the future, knowing something rather than being really confused in a real life scenario.”

If you’re a local educator and want to learn more about the program, please contact Sue Maxam at 315-735-8571 for more information.

Opening a New Branch: Child’s Play at Utica Children’s Museum

July 1st, 2016

Children's MuseumWe’ll be opening a new “branch” soon: a play credit union for kids who visit the Utica Children’s Museum in Utica. Stan Kocyba, our Facilities Manager, will be creating a new financially-focused learning and play space for inquisitive young minds. Stan is in charge of our properties decisions, normally making the important calls on land and buildings, maintenance, and upgrades. This time, he’ll be thinking a bit smaller.

“We are taking two existing spaces, each 8 feet by 8 feet, and combining them into one larger space for our needs,” Stan said, as demolition started at the museum. “An old dentist office area and bank area will become the new credit union area. There was no existing technology installed, and we wanted kids to experience that, so we’ll be adding some interactive technology.”

The new space will be larger, and more interactive inside and out. The proposed design would give children a space with a play ATM, teller window with 2-way drawer, pneumatic tube system, live camera with monitor, loan area, vault, and a large erasable check.

While a good bit of general building design and construction skills are needed, creating a space like this for young people involves additional challenges. We always consider safety first, and the structure will be built to child scale. Our staff may be called in to help with maintenance of the site as well, so ease of access will be considered. Stan laughs, adding, “Kids can be a bit destructive, so our ‘functioning’ mini credit union branch will have to be built to withstand that.”

“Dramatic play is the foundation of our Exploration Station, and we‎ are so excited to welcome First Source as a community partner,” said Elizabeth Brando, the Utica Children’s Museum Executive Director.

In addition to Stan Kocyba and Elizabeth Brando, our team includes a graphic designer (for branding, wall design, and decals), and a community relations specialist. Other First Source volunteers will help with the painting. The entire project is projected to be finished in a few weeks.

“It’s fun to build for kids,” Stan says. “To know they’ll use and enjoy it. I like that they’ll be learning and playing. It makes you feel good. I have a son, and I like to build and create for him. I truly enjoy projects like this.”

Stan’s last kids’ project was a handicapped-accessible tree house outside of Rochester, for children of all abilities to enjoy playing in the trees. This one is not nearly as big a project, but he looks forward to the joy it will bring to museum visitors.

LMV Graduation: Final Lessons

June 21st, 2016

Brenda R.My official Leadership Mohawk Valley (LMV) experience has come to an end, but the skills learned, and connections made, are just beginning. I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and would highly recommend it to others.

On our LMV Graduation Day, we presented our projects. For me, this was what LMV was really about: creating a tangible idea—with a solid plan—that truly helped a community organization. I felt like my team and I did something good and productive, helping to fulfill a community need.

I was very pleased with our outcome. Our presentation was vibrant, colorful, a good mix of different people speaking, photos, and video. It was informative, engaging, and best of all, we were able to hand off what we’d done directly to the Children’s Museum. They can now use our presentation to ask for funding to put the plan in motion. That is an amazing feeling.

Preparing for our presentation was nerve-racking, but still a good overall experience. Even with all of our up-front preparation and our dry run-through to establish flow and smooth out transitions, we still had some technical kinks we were working out right down to the wire. I have given presentations before, but I didn’t have to coordinate with a larger team, and it was on material that I was very familiar with. I’ve only used Word and PowerPoint for presentations, but for this project, we included video and custom artwork. In general, it was a much bigger undertaking than any I have participated in before.

As I reflect on graduation, I recall that I had a clear objective when I started LMV. I wanted to find a cause or purpose in the community that I could identify with and become invested in. I wanted to be able to follow through with that cause or purpose, staying connected with it after LMV was complete. I am proud that these were not empty words, and that I have followed this commitment through.

The Utica Children’s Museum is pleased with the presentation and plans, and is currently using our proposal to apply for grants. I have already volunteered once to set up their new Nano exhibit, and intend to continue. My family is planning to help as well. The Utica Children’s Museum would like our team to present to their Board of Directors and Community Donors. So my team will still see each other, and my connection to the Children’s museum continues. Success all around!

Choosing to participate in LMV is like choosing to write a senior thesis in college. It’s a choice to knowingly take on an extra commitment and extra work, but it yields deeper knowledge, and a feeling of accomplishment and pride upon completion. I have benefited both personally and professionally from the experience, and it has helped better prepare me for the various challenges ahead!

Warm regards,
Brenda Rogowski

My Relay for Life: Not Just a Fundraiser

June 9th, 2016

Heather Padula and familyI am a busy mother of four. My husband and I both work full-time jobs, as well as volunteer and participate in the community. We include our children as well, so they can see the importance of contributing to our community.

I have had many family members and friends affected by many different forms of cancer from a very young age. I have lost my grandfather, my father-in-law, my daughter’s grandmother, a friend in middle school, a high school friend, and another high school friend’s husband to various forms of cancer. I also have had my other grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, and a high school friend’s infant daughter affected by cancer (they are survivors!), as well as many other friends’ and co-workers’ family members affected. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you have in some way been touched by cancer through a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

I have been participating in Utica’s Relay for Life since it was held at JFK Middle School—around their track/football field—many years ago. I would participate with my family, in honor of our family members and friends. I still do this today with my own children, for many more family members and friends that we have lost, or are fighting the battle.

So, what does Relay for Life mean to me and my family, and to so many others? Relay for Life means hope. It means people coming together to fight for a cure, to someday make the world cancer-free, for our children and their children.

I participate with our Relay for Life team at First Source, and help with fundraising throughout our branches beforehand, as well as on the day of the event. My children participate and volunteer, walking and fundraising at the event. We also participate in the Luminaria Ceremony every year, which is a very moving ceremony where candles are lit and placed in paper bag lanterns on which a name, wish, or message can be written. They commemorate those who have passed from cancer, give hope and support to those currently suffering from cancer, and celebrate survivors. I highly recommend attending it if you haven’t yet, as it is definitely something to experience (First Source sells Luminary Bags at every branch).

Why help? I think it’s unfortunate that everyone seems to know someone affected by a form of cancer, and it’s important for us to stick together to help fight, and find a cure. Every little bit helps us move closer to finding cures, as well as helping those in need right now, from providing information to answer their questions, to making sure they have a ride to treatments, and so much more. You are making a difference.

– Heather Padula, Branch Operations Supervisor

4 Financial Tips for Traveling Internationally

June 9th, 2016

Family in Europe
Travelling this summer? Stay safe, have fun, and prevent financial surprises with these financial tips.

1. If you’re planning to travel abroad to a destination where you’ll need to exchange currency, make sure to do that before you go. It’s almost always more expensive to exchange at the airport or visitors’ center. Check your local financial institution. At First Source you can exchange right online using the most current exchange rates. It’s simple, secure, and one less thing you need to worry about. First Source partners with Travelex, the world’s largest retail foreign exchange specialist, offering a wide range of currency, and a number of convenient delivery methods. Plus, if you order before 4:00 p.m. EST, you can get next day delivery! Choose from cash or a prepaid cash passport Mastercard®, which you can reload at any time.

2. Let your credit and debit card holders know when you’re planning to travel, so they don’t block your card (thinking it may have been stolen). A quick call to let them know your destination(s) and dates will help make sure your funds are available when and where you need them.

3. Some credit cards charge an additional foreign transaction fee when using them abroad. If you plan to use a credit card in another country, make sure to bring one that doesn’t charge this added fee.

4. Planning to dine out? Make sure you know the region’s tipping policy. In some countries, tipping is not customary. If you’re tipping within the U.S. but outside our local area, remember to do the math rather than just double the tax. Other cities and counties may have lower tax rates, so simply doubling the tax could short your server.

Plan ahead, and have a great trip!

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


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