The thief who stole Kristi Longoria’s camera and three-day-old laptop in 2013 nearly pilfered her financial future as well.
At the time, she worked at a low-paying job for a nonprofit organization.
“We found ourselves in a really deep hole,” says Longoria, financial education administrator at $1 billion asset San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif. “I started to think, ‘I’m one more financial disaster away from not being able to recover financially.’”
Thriving in her current position has meant bringing a fresh perspective to financial education while improving her own financial status. The combination helps her appreciate what members go through as they seek to build better lives.
“We take a lot of inspiration from our students and from listening to communities that don’t have the voice to make change happen on their own,” Longoria says.
Her team at San Mateo worked with the California Credit Union League to design a two-year financial education program that teaches mothers age 14 to 19 financial and leadership skills and provides access to college or vocational school. The program won the 2016 Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award.
The children of those young mothers typically were infants when their first accounts were opened as part of the program. Now age 5 or 6, the kids stop by Longoria’s office when they visit the credit union to use the Coin Star machine and make deposits.
“Their moms are teaching them to save for themselves,” she says.
Longoria’s financial education also started early, in a crib in the back of her Japanese grandparents’ grocery market where her mother worked. Her father’s side of the family also valued hard work, reﬂecting his Mexican roots.
“Just watching them taught me about having a good work ethic, being passionate about what you’re doing, and learning all the time,” she says.
Longoria recently became a first-time homeowner in the high-priced Bay Area. Like her students, she couldn’t have achieved this milestone without credit union products and education.
“Being able to make my mortgage payment and live comfortably is something I cannot take for granted,” she says. “That’s really peace of mind.”