Community First key partner in career, financial literacy center

FVTC Fox and Cash the BearA new generation of money smart young adults prepared to make wise career and financial choices is the aim of the new Community First Career Exploration & Financial Literacy Center, the first of its kind opened on a U.S. college campus.

Community First Credit Union is thrilled to be a part of the new initiative that celebrated with a ribbon cutting and open house on Jan. 22. Located on the Fox Valley Technical College campus at 11 Tri-Park Way, east of N. Bluemound Drive across from the main FVTC building, it is a collaboration between FVTC, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin and Community First.

In March, middle school students from throughout the 18-county New North region will start Junior Achievement BizTown class trips to the center that resembles a town square or downtown business district with storefronts for real-life hands-on experiences that will complement and expand on classroom lessons.

As a promoter of financial literacy education in schools for more than two decades, Community First stepped up to be the lead sponsor. “It was their commitment that served as a catalyst for this project’s fundraising and we’re very proud to name this center after Community First,” said FVTC President Dr. Susan May.

Amanda Secor, Community First chief of staff, said, JA staff will bring in students for “meaningful, hands-on career exploration and financial literacy experiences” that “bring their classroom lessons alive in a safe, make-believe environment that instills very real lessons.”

A student will learn “a variety of career opportunities they can build a life around, what it means to be a contributing employee and citizen of a community, and insight into managing their money and making financial choices that help them live their best life.”

The center will serve as a “perfect complement to Community First’s long-standing ‘game of life’ budgeting simulation called Reality Check that brings personal finance coursework to life for high school students,” Secor said.

Known by many simply as JA – the world’s largest organization dedicated to empowering young people with knowledge and skills needed to be successful – Junior Achievement will offer students its BizTown (Grade 5) and FinancePark (Grades 10-12) programs starting in March. 

“We want to provide middle school and high school students with hands-on and minds-on opportunities to discover and explore their interests, what they’re good at, what they might want to focus in on as they pursue college – whether it’s a two-year or four-year program,” said Michael Frohna, president, JA Wisconsin. 

An estimated 15,000 students annually from schools throughout the region are expected to utilize the unique engagement and enrichment activities at the center. JA staff will be assisted by school, corporate and community volunteers.

Community First’s storefront will provide an opportunity to show students about careers in the financial industry as they role play jobs as tellers, a savings officer, member service representative, chief financial officer and chief executive officer.

Students who work at different storefronts in the center – such as Kimberly-Clark, Bergstrom, Miller Electric, Miron Construction, Wisconsin Electric/Wisconsin Public Service and media outlets like The Post-Crescent and WHBY Radio – will deposit their paychecks into a credit union savings account and withdraw money as needed from checking accounts to pay for products and services.

FVTC, the state’s largest technical college, will also use the center and its storefronts as an extension of its career-focused educational efforts with career exploration programming along with K-12 teacher education programs with a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) focus.

“They say that it takes a village to raise a child,” Secor said, “and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of the village that has been created here at the Community First Career Exploration & Financial Literacy Center – creating a space for our collective community to play a role in fostering a new generation of money smart adults through the development and preparation of future employees, business owners, community members and leaders.

“Financial literacy is incredibly important to us, our members, their children and grandchildren,” she said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to make this important investment in our youth and our communities.”

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