Credit Unions Sponsor Reality Fair at MA State House for Legislative Interns
Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate legislative interns experienced their first reality fair yesterday sponsored by the City of Boston Credit Union, Boston, MA; Mass Bay Credit Union, South Boston, MA, and Metro Credit Union, Chelsea, MA. The participating credit unions sought to complement their current financial education efforts during the school year by expanding their work into the summer. The program, Scholars and Cents, was a daylong event which integrated traditional educational exercises with a special presentation by Patricia Hamilton, director, Public Inquiry and Assistance Center, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, on identity theft. The classroom portion, conducted in a legislative hearing room, was immediately followed by the Reality Fair in the Great Hall featuring ten booths covering savings, lending, investments, housing, transportation, charity, and other key areas. Matt Paradise, education and outreach team lead and trainer, American Consumer Credit Counseling, as well as Enterprise Car Sales also assisted with the endeavor. Shelia O'Loughlin, the MA State Treasury Coordinator also participated in putting on this program.
Approximately 88 students sponsored by 20 senators and 30 representatives gained valuable insight into financial challenges they will face as they emerge from their academic career to life on their own. The participating students are enrolled in high school, undergraduate, and graduate studies and have chosen to volunteer in the public sector at the State House. In addition to local students, attendees were also from the countries of Korea, England, and Ireland. The summer legislative intern series incorporates over 60 programming segments to benefit the students.
Observations from the students about their current savings habits included that they were "terrible about money," "shop too much," and "can budget for large but not small day-to-day items." Concerns about credit included that they "had no credit and therefore could get no credit" and that it is simply "money to repay." By the end of the program, students openly acknowledged that "food is expensive," that they "needed to read the fine print before accessing credit," and that "retirement is important and needs lots of money."
League President Paul Gentile said that this program was a tremendous success for all parties, "This Reality Fair is a terrific demonstration of the credit union communities' commitment to high-quality financial education for young people. The fact that it was in the State House once again demonstrates that credit unions are truly committed to helping consumers, and in particular young people, gain an understanding of money and finance."
The Legislative Intern program is administered in the Senate by Anne Ziaja, director, Senate Legislative Education Office, who expressed appreciation for the credit union outreach on this issue. She also remarked that the internship seeks to encourage good citizenship in students and that financial education greatly contributes to that goal. Erin O'Connor, staff director for Representative Bill Galvin, who oversees the House internship program, also applauded credit unions and described the event as a "great opportunity that provides one of life's most valuable lessons in an interactive manner."
Credit union officials were also very pleased with the inaugural program. Dan Trombley, CEO, City of Boston Credit Union, noted that the credit union is proud to be part of the collaborative efforts to expand financial education led by credit unions to State House interns. Mass Bay Credit Union CEO John Thomas commented that the fair is such a great tool for young people who can use it as a base for good financial and life decisions going forward. Robert Cashman, CEO, Metro Credit Union, observed that the credit union mission remains rooted in financial education at every level and this newest endeavor is another example of that commitment at work today.
The participating credit unions have already been invited back to the State House to deliver the program again to next year's summer legislative interns and welcome the opportunity.