Financial Literacy Program A Cross Between 'Survivor,' Summer Camp

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Food, fun, finances and local.

That's what Boeing Wichita Credit Union officials wanted for their first financial education camp attended by area seventh- and eighth-grade students.

It's hardly been alone this summer. Numerous other credit unions across the country have been offering their own "financial boot camps" aimed at teenagers and younger students.

In the case of Boeing Wichita, the Kansas Credit Union Association had already staged a successful financial education program for students. Boeing Wichita had contributed funds to the program, but it was a two-hour drive away in Topeka, Kan.

"It's a great camp, but we wanted something local," Boeing Wichita Community Relationship Director Carrie Herman said.

After examining the situation, Herman said BWCU found local junior high school students weren't being served by present financial education programs offered by schools and financial institutions.

Herman said planning started last summer for a one-day camp that quickly evolved into two separate, two-day camps based on the popular television show "Survivor." The program was titled "Financial Survival Camp" and promised "Food, Financial Training & Fun" for both members and non-members.

Boeing Wichita chose nearby Eberly Farm, a large outdoor area with swimming pool, nature trail and swinging bridge, among other features. While the campers were supposed to learn finances, they could also enjoy themselves outside, she said.

The first camp was held June 21 and 22 with 28 teens attending. Herman said the CU charged $5 for admission, which was mainly to ensure the teens who enrolled would show up and not leave a empty seat.

At the end of the camp, the $5 was deposited into the teen members' account. Campers who didn't have an account were given $5 to open their own.

Morning activities were based on "team building" with teens creating a flag for their group and a T-shirt the next day. Afternoon sessions included discussions on how to save for a specific purchase with most teens saying they wanted to save for a new bicycle, Herman said.

"It was very successful. It's something different that we're going to build on," Herman said.

Herman said a common misconception with students so young is not recognizing that they have to open an account before writing checks or using an ATM.

Herman said it was a combination of youth and simply not being educated enough about money and finance.

"They think that as long as they have checks, they have money," she said.

The next Financial Survival Camp will be July 26 and 27 with 60 seats available this time. Herman said teen surveys showed, predictably, that students wanted more activity and less lecturing.

But, they asked for activities related to saving and finance, and even a camp that would last an entire week, Herman said.

Herman suggested that a Financial Survival Camp would be a successful addition to any credit union's list of educational programs if one currently isn't in place.

It helps kids learn about managing their money and is an easy way for credit unions to start and manage a future database of programs.

Boeing Wichita CU has set out to have established financial education programs for every age level, not just teens, Herman said.

"It's one of our goals. It's in our business plan," Herman said.

The $400-million Boeing Wichita Credit Union serves 46,000 members.

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