The best educators have a passion for touching the lives of others. Cherry Dale, as financial education director at Virginia Credit Union (VACU) in Richmond, led her organization’s efforts in touching more than 27,000 lives in 2018.
Dale, a former kindergarten teacher, brings to her job not just a passion for reaching others, but also dedication, organization, and an inspirational work ethic.
The $3.6 billion asset credit union’s financial curriculum focuses on practical skills like setting and achieving savings goals, budgeting, preparing for home ownership.
One of Dale’s first projects at VACU was developing a financial education curriculum for local schools. The result was “Smart Start,” a six-lesson, train-the-teacher program that reached more than 2,500 students last year.
When the credit union introduced the program, there was no requirement to teach financial education at Virginia high schools. Dale created partnerships with local schools to distribute the program.
“I heard over and over from educators that they wanted something they could use immediately in the classroom,” she says. “Now, there is a financial education mandate, and we’re excited about that. The program is meant for teachers who don’t have a lot of background or experience in personal finance. They can easily apply it in the classroom.”
VACU has applied a similar train-the-trainer concept at Virginia Commonwealth University, where it instructs students in the business school to counsel other students as part of the University 101 personal finance module. “We’ve seen that program grow as well,” Dale says.
Her four-person financial education team also educates adult members, whether it’s working with select employee groups or holding regular workshops at VACU facilities. Under her leadership, the annual reach of the credit union’s financial education program has quadrupled.
Dale also is active in the local community. Since 2013, she has chaired the Virginia Jump$tart Coalition, the state branch of the national organization that promotes personal financial literacy.
“I love Virginia Jump$tart because it's about the community working together to better the financial health of students,” she says. “It keeps me plugged into what’s happening in financial education.”
VACU also partners with parent-teacher associations at local schools to offer financial education classes and provides matching funds to encourage youth savings. Last year, 224 students saved more than $200,000 through this effort. “What’s great about this program is that it gets parents involved,” Dale says.
Dale even has a regular spot on a local TV station. Last year, she filmed about 20 financial educational segments with a local NBC affiliate. “We probably reach 50,000 people with each of those segments,” she says.
She finds inspiration in the fact that financial education truly empowers people. “No matter where you are in life and regardless of your income, it gives people tangible tools to empower themselves. That’s what the people-helping-people philosophy is all about, and that’s the core idea of what we do at Virginia Credit Union.”