3 Community First Members Awarded Chapter Scholarships
The Greater Fox Cities Chapter of Credit Unions has awarded its three annual $1,000 scholarships to 2023 high school graduates and all three recipients are Community First member-owners.
The winners are: Alec Bricco (Winneconne High School), Emma Clussman (Kimberly High School), and Connor Yakes (Oshkosh West High School). They were recognized on Tuesday (April 25) at the chapter’s monthly banquet.
The three high school seniors were selected by the chapter’s Scholarship Award Committee based on their responses to this essay question: With rising costs due to inflation, including college tuition and housing expenses, how do you plan to ensure a healthy and successful financial future. They also had to share a community involvement question about a volunteer opportunity that impacted their life and how they planned to use that impact going forward.
Scholarship Winners accompanied by Community First Credit Union Employees from left to right:
Cathy Mutschler, Connor Yakes, Emma Clussman, Alec Bricco, and Angela Skrobutanas.
An Oshkosh resident planning to study nursing/pre-med at UW-Oshkosh, Alec said he learned most of his financial literacy lessons from his father, who lost his parents as a child and had to learn to be a “good steward with money” in order to make it on his own.
“He taught me the spend, share and save model – spend what you need to pay expenses, share with your church and community as you can afford and save to be prepared for big expenses and have money to enjoy and support you in retirement,” Alec wrote. He chose UWO for college as it was more affordable.
He is passionate about the issue of food insecurity and remembers his dad talking about “not always having food to eat after his father died.” That prompted him to start “Scouting for Food” with his boy scout troop, something he did for 11 years. Alec’s Eagle Scout project involved raising over $2,000 to construct and install a large wooden sign to promote the local food pantry (Winneconne Area Assistance Center) while also cleaning and painting the office, kitchen and entryway of the church where the pantry is located. When finished, “I was able to donate $400 to the pantry to use to buy food for their clients.”
The Appleton resident, who plans to study exercise science at UW-La Crosse, said when visiting colleges last summer, she and her parents encountered “sticker shock” that led to some hard conversations about the cost of a college degree. “My parents both paid for their post-secondary education on their own by working and taking out school loans,” Emma said. “And, after years of paying back those loans (they) celebrated that they had done it on their own.
“My parents started a savings account for me when I was born to start that nest egg but the rest will be on me,” said Emma, who works as a babysitter year-round, as a lifeguard during the summer and part-time around her sports schedule at Tropical Smoothie and Walmart to build her college fund.
Emma shared a heart-wrenching story about how a close friend she had known since middle school tragically took his own life in late 2021. Out of the heart ache and sadness, his suicide galvanized her resolve to “make a difference in my community” and she set out to start a group to help people experiencing suicidal thoughts. Her friend’s death “provided me with the motivation to help others who are afraid to advocate for themselves.”
An Oshkosh resident, he plans to study finance and investment banking at UW-Madison. As a teen, Connor learned from his parents about the importance of a work ethic and saving. “I took on my first job to start saving for college and learned how to be frugal and make financially responsible choices.” He started a second job to add to his savings, cover unplanned expenses and have some “fun” money as well. “I learned how to spend within my means and not splurge on things that I couldn’t necessarily afford.”
Sparked by a high school accounting class, Connor set about building a “sound financial future” including investing in a Fidelity youth brokerage account. His “diverse portfolio” includes some stocks, CDs and mutual funds while adding a Roth IRA and responsible use of a credit card that have “given me a head start on my financial journey.” He plans to pursue an MBA and get involved as a real estate investor to leverage his interest in home improvements/renovations by purchasing and fixing up some rental property.
Connor’s desire “to help my community prosper” led him to become a dog socializer, donating over 5,000 hours over the past 4-5 years with Journey Together Service Dog program. He has worked with 24 dogs that are trained by Oshkosh Correctional Institution inmates out into the community to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. “After returning the dogs to the prison, I fill out a detailed report explaining what went well, what did not. My feedback gets shared with the dog handlers. This helps guide them so they can continue to fine-tune the dog’s skills prior to placement.”
Community First’s Angela Skrobutanas, Vice President Product Marketing and a member of the chapter’s Scholarship Award Committee, said a total of 61 applications were received and reviewed. “It’s been such a privilege to read these applications,” she said. “There were so many worthwhile essays, it was difficult to pick just three. What a wonderful surprise to find out they were all Community First members! On behalf of the Greater Fox Cities Chapter of Credit Unions, congratulations to all three worthy scholarship recipients and best wishes on their upcoming graduation and future studies!”