By Beth Troost
MCUF Executive Director
Geri Timonen from Trenary Cooperative FCU was awarded a Michigan Credit Union Foundation Community Reinvestment Initiative grant earlier this year and went right to work making an impact in her community. Trenary purchased an experiential learning kit called “The Poverty Simulation” from the Missouri Association for Community Action and has already used the kit for financial education outreach to 58 students at Superior High School in the Upper Peninsula town of Eben.
Poverty Simulation is a unique, interactive experience that allows participants to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. Participants play the roles of family members for a few hours as they experience first-hand a typical month of living on the edge, struggling to meet basic needs without enough money.
When experienced by adults, this provides awareness, sensitivity and motivation to become involved in helping to find solutions and increase community support for families in need. High school students benefit from the experience because it provides additional motivation to plan ahead, and they can better understand how educational, career and money management choices can impact their future reality.
“Living in a lower-income area, this simulation hits very close to home,” noted Timonen in the MCUF CRI grant application. “We are hoping to teach the kids responsibility and looking into the future.”
Trenary Cooperative FCU reports that the simulation provided a profoundly moving experience for both the high school students and the adult volunteers that facilitated the hands-on activity in April. “Some of the students were reluctant and reserved at first but soon became very engaged and asked for more time in the simulation” Timonen said.
Timonen rounded up 19 volunteers to facilitate the simulation experience, including credit union staff, board members and school and community volunteers. It won’t likely be hard to find facilitators for future simulations as many of the volunteers have already told her that they found the experience so educational and rewarding that they would like to help bring it to others.
Teachers at the school have requested that this simulation be repeated in future years so that all students will have the benefit of experiencing it before they graduate. Timonen reported that one teacher said “This was so beneficial for our students and they learned something without even realizing it.”
Trenary plans to continue to reach out to the community with this activity with additional simulations at the high school and will start financial literacy classes for middle and high school students at the school. Credit union and school officials agree that financial education early on is the key to students’ money management success in the future.
The MCUF provides specific support to small asset sized credit unions for employee educational development and operational grants. The MCUF also supports Michigan credit unions of all sizes with CRI Grants and Scholarships to CUNA Management School. For 2012, funding is still available for SAS Educational Scholarships and for CRI Grants for community outreach and financial education activities.
With donor support, the MCUF continues to ensure that educational scholarships and grants are available for Michigan credit unions. As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the MCUF seeks support from credit unions, chapters, individuals, and companies who support and serve credit unions. Small credit unions can help. Please consider making an annual donation of even a small amount, and take a minute to ask your credit union vendors and partners to make a donation to the MCUF.
MCUF would like to thank the following small asset sized credit unions who have already provided an annual donation for 2012: