Before every financial education class he teaches, Jaison McCall delivers an important message to his pupils: “Hi, my name is Jaison. I work for the credit union but I’m not here to sell you on the credit union, I’m here to help you.’”
His disarming introduction has a purpose: St. Louis Community Credit Union’s educators know that unless they bridge the wide trust gap that exists between the underserved and financial institutions, all their hard work will be for naught.
“It takes time, and it takes conversation,” says McCall, who has served as the credit union’s financial literacy and community outreach specialist for more than two years.
“A lot of people don’t think their behavior plays a role in their finances,” he says. “But it’s the foundation of personal finance. Personal finance is personal. We have to understand ourselves to understand our financial situations. People have to think differently. When they think differently, they can act differently.”
The credit union’s primary outreach efforts include:
Consumer financial and life skills education;
Health and wellness;
Professional development; and
Only through this holistic, ongoing approach can people build a solid foundation for financial independence, says Carolyn Seward, founder of the Family Workforce Centers of America (FWCA)—a job training and counseling center in St. Louis that partners with the credit union.
Recently, FWCA helped a young college student continue her pursuit of a biosciences degree by using these financial education tools. The student was unemployed when she came to the center. She didn’t have any savings or check-cashing abilities. She went through a skills-based financial literacy program that taught her about asset development, and now she has a plan and is making progress.
“You can’t do just one thing. You really need an entire plan and process,” Seward says. “That’s what St. Louis Community provides—a process for individuals to learn information, improve their credit, and develop short-term and long-term budgets they can live with.”