For 1 CEO, Trip Back To High School Not A Reunion

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Southeast Oakland Community Credit Union's Steven J. Scherr stood in front of a high school class and said, "Let's talk about saving money today."

There were a few chuckles as one student blurted out, "I don't have that skill. I get paid on Friday and all my money is gone by Tuesday."

Scherr, SOCCU's business development manager, was not surprised. In fact, he responded, "That's why I'm here."

Scherr is a volunteer instructor for CUNA's National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) program, which provides curriculum to teach basic financial management to middle and high school students.

During Credit Union Youth Week Scherr was among the hundreds of credit union volunteers and legislators from across this state and the nation who teamed up at schools to talk about personal finances.

Michigan league spokesperson Lori Bahnmueller said league officials were very pleased with the willingness of the state legislators to participate. Of 16 invited, eight took on the task. Others, who said they couldn't fit it into their schedules, expressed support of the program.

The league reported that Michigan credit unions, lead the nation in financial literacy outreach, teaching more than 36,000 students annually. They are also leaders in school credit union branches, with some 100 student-run facilities in school districts across the state.

Scherr's partner for the fourth of a six-week course at Oak Park High School (Scherr's alma mater) was Rep. Andy Meisner, who shared his challenges of paying first for college and now for law school.

"Money is obviously the key to getting where you want to be," Meisner told the small group of juniors and seniors. "You've got tuition, food, dorm costs, books . . ."

Tired Of The Teacher

The next hour was spent discussing saving money and the various ways to make it grow with such financial products as savings accounts, mutual and municipal bonds, stocks and collectibles.

Their teacher, Len Boucher, said he has been pleased to see the students asking more and more questions as they go through the course.

"We discuss this stuff throughout the year," Boucher said, "but kids get tired of listening to their teacher all the time. It's nice for them to hear the same thing from somebody else."

MCUL President/CEO David Adams said the goal of the program is to bring awareness of finances to young people so they can avoid problems such as bankruptcy and obtaining affordable credit later in life.

"There's a crisis in financial education in our country and a need for leadership in combating it," he said. "Credit unions are ideally positioned to respond because we have always believed that education and information are key to achieving financial well being."

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