Vanessa Mollá Kuduk
Vanessa Molla Kuduk

Zumba for Financial Literacy's Sake

'We always talk about being financial fit. Why not be physically fit, too?'

October 6, 2015

IN AN IMPROBABLE mashup of interests, Vanessa Mollá Kuduk tapped her love of Zumba to fund a financial literacy program for young people in Connecticut.

By day, Kuduk is a loan officer, and the Hispanic and youth development officer at $28 million asset Members Credit Union in Cos Cob, Conn. By night, she teaches courses in Zumba, a high-energy mix of dance and exercise.

“My passion is to dance,” she says. “I have always danced. And, we always talk about being financially fit. Why not be physically fit, too?”

Kuduk developed a Credit Union Development Educator project in 2013 to stage a benefit Zumba master class and donate all proceeds to the Connecticut Financial Reality Fair. Her first two Zumba classes—in 2014 and earlier this year—raised a total of $2,500 from participants.

At a reality fair, high-school students make financial decisions as they circulate booths. Later, they discuss those choices with experts, and learn what smarter choices they might have made along the way.

“It’s very eye-opening,” Kuduk says. “At the end, sometimes they’re in tears about what they’ll have to do to pay the bills in the future. I wish we had these fairs when I was in high school.”

Kuduk, a 10-year credit union veteran, was born in Peru and came to the U.S. when she was 14 years old.

With strong ties to the area Hispanic community, Kuduk is developing a plan for Members Credit Union to provide loans to undocumented immigrants. In 2014, Connecticut allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

“We’re working on ways to provide car loans to these people who are going to need cars,” Kuduk says. “They work, they make money, but they can’t access loans. It will help them and it will help us.”

Kuduk landed a teller job at Members Credit Union while attending community college, just after receiving her green card.

“So, I know the needs of immigrant people,” she says. “We struggle a lot when we don’t have papers.”

Kathy Chartier, president/CEO at Members Credit Union, says she has learned from Kuduk “the importance of making every interaction with the member an opportunity” to offer them additional information to improve their financial well-being.