The Foundation is a huge believer in experiential learning, or learning by “doing”. One example of this is high school Reality Fairs, which is an interactive fair for high school students to help prepare them for their financial futures. Today, 26 states are offering students Reality Fair Programs – 14 of which can be tied directly to the Foundation.
The Financial Reality Foundation (FRF) of Alaska recently utilized a grant from the Foundation to bring financial education to high school seniors via credit unions across the state of Alaska. Through their Get REAL Financial Reality Fair Program, they reached 2,663 students, which is 34% of all enrolled high school seniors in Alaska.
FRF offers financial reality fairs for free to communities by way of the cooperation among Alaskan credit unions. The Alaska Credit Union League has been a major supporter in bringing financial literacy efforts state-wide by providing the Get REAL Financial Reality Fairs in their respective communities and membership areas. Seeing the enthusiasm from schools and collaboration from credit unions, Matanuska Valley FCU was inspired to create FRF in August 2014, as a non-profit foundation to provide consumers the opportunity to learn about finances in a fun, realistic and memorable way.
FRF partnered with 11 of the 12 credit unions in Alaska to hold 44 events at 35 schools, with over 300 volunteers assisting. Many of the participating schools are from what locals refer to as “bush” communities, meaning they are not connected to any major road network or ferry system. The students in these communities have a lack of financial education resources in comparison to the large cities that have participated in Financial Reality Fairs in the past.
The grant from the Foundation allowed FRF to bring these students from the surrounding communities into the larger cities to teach them about budgeting, saving and career development. Of the 2,663 students who attended the Reality Fairs, 35% of them would not have had this opportunity without the assistance of the additional grant funds from the Foundation and the cooperative engagement of the Alaskan credit unions.
Additionally, part of the funds provided by the National Credit Union Foundation allowed FRF to create three turn-key packages for Alaskan credit unions to bring back to their communities and high schools to continue increasing the reach of the Reality Fair program.
“I believe that financial literacy is a life skill that every student should learn before they graduate from high school,” said Lisa Sylva, Business/Guidance Teacher, Academy of Business & Public Human Services at Waipahu High School. “Therefore, I am grateful for the partnership that Waipahu High School has with the Financial Reality Foundation in helping our students and our parents to learn about budgeting and the importance of managing their money and credit.”
Unfortunately, Alaska is experiencing a great recession and economists are predicting at least 3-5 more years of the same, followed by a smaller, poorer Alaska. Therefore, the desire for financial education is at the forefront for many Alaskans. The Financial Reality Fairs is a way for credit unions to show communities that they are here for them, and there is a way to help improve the financial futures of the next generation of consumers.
John Brown, the Principal at Mat-Su Central School in Wasilla, Alaska stated that, “Mat-Su Central School high school students have been positively impacted by their experiential learning offered by the Financial Reality Foundation. Parents and community members understand the significant lifelong benefits of educating our youth to be financially literate. We are fortunate to have in our community the caring and dedicated folks who have donated their time to make the Get REAL Financial Reality Fair possible.”
After attending one of the Reality Fairs, a student said, “In all honesty, I never truly understood or took into importance the decisions my parents and guardians have had to make growing up. Like most children, I was more concerned about acquiring the latest technology or shopping at particular stores for the sake of fitting in. Having participated in a Reality Fair, I really took the opportunity to not only understand the financial aspects of adulthood, but also how they would shape my way of living throughout the year. I thank you and the rest of the Financial Reality Fair team for reminding me about the importance of financial matters.”
The Alaskan credit unions that participated in this partnership include; AK District of Engineers FCU, ALPS FCU, AK USA FCU, CU1 FCU, Denali FCU, MAC FCU, Matanuska Valley FCU, Northern Skies FCU, Spirit of Alaska FCU, Tongass FCU, and True North FCU.
Also featured in Credit Union Magazine.
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