Crashers
What comes after the crash?
When the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference convened in Washington earlier this year, 78 "crashers" — young credit union professionals from across the country — were in attendance via the Cooperative Trust. The group sat in on general sessions, heard from a former president, got up close and personal with credit union leaders, and experienced the energy and passion GAC is known for.

So what happens after the hype fades?

Credit Union Journal embedded with members of the Trust during GAC, and reached out to 12 participants after the event to get a sense of how the experience impacted them and how they plan to make the most of the enthusiasm they felt there. Members of this year's cohort took part in an anonymous poll from CU Journal and offered their own reflections on what they took away from the program and the conference, what they learned and how they plan to implement that back at their own credit unions. Read on for their responses.
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Tyler Kerkmann, development and culture specialist, Mazuma Credit Union, Overland Park, Kan.
What made you apply to be a GAC crasher?

I’ve worked in the credit union industry for four years, and as a young professional I’ve been attracted to the grassroots efforts of credit unions. Our movement speaks about people helping people by serving underserved populations and creating opportunities for communities. Applying to be a crasher at GAC was all about expanding the impact I can make with our industry as well as [becoming] inspired by the young professionals in the industry. My hope was this experience would give me the tools, resources and fuel needed to move forward — it did so much more. Speaking on credit union concerns attracted me to the Cooperative Trust and taught more about advocacy in the credit union industry and hiking the Hill.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

Due to GAC and VISA, we were able to redirect $20,000 from purchasing financial literacy resources to using the vast, quality resources VISA offers through their financial literacy efforts. The money was then used to enhance our committees' ability to serve more members by improving technology in the program. Additionally, our community service efforts will be recorded through CUSocialGood as a way to increase awareness surrounding Mazuma’s community outreach, as well as [to] track the volunteer hours and monetary donations. Finally, a more ambitious goal of mine is to launch a young professionals group at Mazuma to engage the need our younger generation has [for] leadership, professional and personal development. This is at the beginning stages as we align this idea with current ideas we’re working with.
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Jesse Jacobs, assistant vice president of lending, Campco Federal Credit Union, Gillette, Wyo.
What made you apply to be a GAC crasher?

In Western CUNA Management School, I came face to face with the issue of advocacy and the realization that I wasn’t as involved in helping to further the movement as I wanted to be. I asked one of my instructors for suggestions about how I could get more involved, and they suggested that I start with the crasher program. When I presented the idea to my CEO, he thought it would be a great opportunity to meet new people, see what the political arena is like and understand more about the legislative side of it.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

I’m working on creating an advocacy session with some of the young professionals at Campco so that I can pass on some of what I learned, and have suggested that we work hard to send someone else as a crasher next year. We’re in a somewhat isolated rural area, and I just feel that the more we can do to provide our staff members with the opportunity to see how other credit unions function, the better we’ll be.
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Clark Duncan, branch manager, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, Radcliff, Ky.
Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

After my second crash event I made a proposal for a young professional/emerging leaders group at my credit union that I am currently in the process of implementing. The GAC helped give me some of the tools needed to get this started.

Did you make any connections at GAC through the crasher program or general events? Have you stayed connected with those people?

The connections I made at the GAC was one of the most valuable aspects of my time in DC. I still regularly keep in touch with multiple crashers. We have group chats for different industry events going on, and are constantly sharing new ideas and working together as a team. I also keep in touch with my mentors there and am thankful to have a network of like-minded people working together to make a change.
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Tiffany Mahan, head teller, Whitefish Credit Union, Whitefish, Mont.
What were some of the highlights of the week?

Hearing George W. Bush speak was an honor and way more entertaining than you would ever imagine. Seeing strong, confident female leaders in our breakout crasher sessions made me want to dust off the old pom-poms and cheer with abandon. I would also be doing a huge disservice if I didn’t mention the crasher family — by far one of my most favorite takeaways from the experience was meeting these exceptional, supportive, crazy, fun group of individuals and mentors. Without them this experience would not have been the amazing, life-changing experience that it was.

What were your most useful takeaways from the conference? What did you learn?

I learned how important it is for us young professionals to know the issues that are occurring in our industry so that we can understand and support the decisions that are made in regards to those challenges. I think sometimes we are unaware of the challenges our senior management teams are facing, and we need to take it upon ourselves to be invested in the issues if we want to grow and succeed in this industry. I think one of the biggest takeaways though, as it always is at any type of conference I attend, is how amazing the talent is in this industry. Especially the young professional talent. I was blown away every single day of GAC by my fellow crashers. They are the people to watch in the upcoming years. Credit unions are going to continue to be relevant and successful because of my incredible peers.
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Allie Teper, card services specialist, Carolina Foothills Federal Credit Union, Spartanburg, S.C.
Did you have anyone else (a non-crasher) from your credit union at GAC? How did your experiences compare? How did the crasher content compare to the general sessions for the ones you experienced?

My CEO and VP of business development attended the GAC this year. Our experiences absolutely were different — but in the best way possible. Crasher schedules were jam-packed leaving us with little time to think anything other than credit union advocacy. Our schedules allowed us to be immersed at the highest level and really get into the spirit of our movement. The crasher content was on the same level as the general sessions in the way of topic and purpose, but we were also honored to hear personal stories about growth, change and positive influence from our current CU leaders and trailblazers.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

I have been given the opportunity to develop an internal young professional/development network for Carolina Foothills FCU. I am still in the planning process but we'll hold our first session in May. Stay tuned!
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Kimberley Ruiz, community development relationship manager, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Bethpage, N.Y.
Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

Yes, from the GAC my credit union is hoping to expand our young professional group at work. This will be a great resource so that like-minded individuals within our credit union can work together to push important initiatives.

Did you make any connections at GAC through the crasher program or general events? Have you stayed connected with those people?

Yes, I made several connections at GAC through the crasher program and I am actively staying connected with them. I have connected with them on LinkedIn and as a group we have discussed many work-related programs. Additionally, I have scheduled phone conversations with some fellow crashers to help them start up an innovation center at their workplace, which we have previously instituted at my credit union.
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Kobey Mabry, lending officer, Red River Employees Federal Credit Union, Texarkana, Texas
What were your most useful takeaways from the conference? What did you learn?

Through my GAC experience, I learned that the American people have a stronger voice than we think. Our elected officials are people just like us. They value our concerns and opinions.

Fighting for what is right is never anything to be timid about.

Did you make any connections at GAC through the crasher program or general events? Have you stayed connected with those people?

I can honestly say that by the end of the week, I made 78 close friends through my crash experience. Many tears were shed by everyone on the last day of GAC. The crash leaders were so amazing and helpful mentors.

Several of my #CrasherFam have opened up their spare bedrooms and couches for me to travel to their states.
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Aimee Morin, training and development supervisor, St. Mary's Bank, Manchester, N.H.
Did you have anyone else (a non-crasher) from your credit union at GAC? How did your experiences compare? How did the crasher content compare to the general sessions for the ones you experienced?

Yes, my CEO, COO and two board members attended as well.

I was a LOT busier than they were, as the crashers’ days were jam-packed with presentations and activities outside of the conference docket.

In my opinion, the crash content was geared more toward networking and allowing us some opportunities for young credit union professionals. We had a lot of motivational speakers, vendors and other young people in the industry present to us. It was an eye-opener to be able to see what opportunities we might have that we maybe didn’t realize.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

Yes! I am actually in the works of developing and implementing a young professionals' program at my credit union.
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Christian Hartley, Branch Manager, Keesler Federal Credit Union, Wiggins, Miss.
Did you have anyone else (a non-crasher) from your credit union at GAC? How did your experiences compare? How did the crasher content compare to the general sessions for the ones you experienced?

Our COO and a member of our [board of directors] attended GAC. They both mentioned “Wow, I saw your [crasher] schedule, it’s packed.” Being a freshman to the event, I really soaked in the wonderment of it all. To be surrounded by CU leaders from my state and our nation, not to mention the young leaders in my crasher group — people who share the same vision and passion — was, honestly, life-changing.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

Yes. A credit union young professionals' network. Mississippi currently does not have one, so I’m working closely with [the Mississippi Credit Union Association] and my credit union to get a CUYP network re-established. I believe that it is critical for my generation and the next generation of CU leaders to be actively developed.
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Allison Macey, business development manager, Garden Savings Federal Credit Union, Parsippany, N.J.
What were some of the highlights of the week?

Meeting like-minded young professionals from all over the country was the biggest highlight. It was enlightening to hear how different states operate and the challenges faced by different regions. We were all able to learn from one another, taking pieces of every story back to our home state.

Did you take anything from GAC and implement or propose something new for your credit union?

Communication is key to success in a large organization. Upon returning I began creating and distributing an internal communication piece to make everyone aware of the efforts by marketing and business development. It has been well [received] and the staff as a whole are more educated when speaking with members.
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Chad Miller, chief operations officer, Southwest Louisiana Credit Union, Lake Charles, La.
What made you apply to be a GAC crasher?

I had a lot of encouragement from our CEO, Ronaldo Hardy, who was a previous crasher back in 2011, I believe. He has been instrumental in my professional development and willing to invest in my future. He knew his connections made as a crasher and experience there really propelled his career, so he wanted me to get the same experience.

What were your most useful takeaways from the conference? What did you learn?

This was probably my first real deep dive into the advocacy issues that credit unions across the U.S. deal with. I learned that preserving our tax status and regulatory burden will be a constant fight, but one worth fighting for, as long as CUs are in existence. I also re-learned that the CU industry is one that I never want to leave. The connections made with people all across the nation and the willingness to share information so that we all may succeed is something that is so unique to the industry and I believe simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
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Alisha Stair, marketing and indirect lending coordinator, Illinois Educators Credit Union, Springfield, Ill.
Did you have anyone else (a non-crasher) from your credit union at GAC? How did your experiences compare? How did the crasher content compare to the general sessions for the ones you experienced?

I was the only attendee from my credit union and the only crasher from my state. While it was intimidating at first, it allowed me to easily jump out of my comfort zone throughout the week. One of the best pieces of crashing is the crasher-specific content. In many cases, we were able to address and ask questions to industry leaders we may have otherwise not had the chance to speak with. The small group settings allowed for the sharing of best practices and ideas along with plentiful follow up opportunities with other credit unions, CUSOs and vendors.

What were your most useful takeaways from the conference? What did you learn?

The most useful takeaways were the deeper understanding of government regulation and how that affects virtually every aspect of our business from financials to marketing. I also went home with many new member- and employee-engagement resources to continue to inspire more credit union advocates.
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