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How to Empower Underdeveloped Communities Through Financial Literacy

Financial wellness in underdeveloped communities builds individualstability and generates economic growth throughout the entire region. Right now, mid-to-lower income, underserved and immigrant prominent communities do not have easy access to financial education and resources. According to the 2020 Council for Economic Education Survey of the States Study less than 17% of high schoolers were required to take at least one semester of personal finance. This alarming rate in the lack of financial literacy available furthers poverty, crime, and food insecurity. The Council’s Survey found that 21 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, an increase of four states since 2018. However, five states, plus the District of Columbia still do not include personal finance in their standards.

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In fact, the average amount of money in 2020 that was lost by the average American adult due to lack of financial literacy was $1,634, according to the National Financial Educators Council Testing.The number escalates when you generalize the results to represent all of the approximately 254 million adults who live in the U.S., lack of financial literacy cost Americans a total of more than $415 billion last year. The testing also provided an in-depth view on exactly how much money American’s thought they lost due to their lack of knowledge about personal finances.

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Therefore, SkyPoint Federal Credit Union (SkyPoint) established Community Outreach Programs to make a change. Our goal is to create awareness around the importance of financial stability. These programs enable us to support local communities through education. Specifically, our community program SkyPoint Caresfocuses on building economic stability through financial literacy.This program teaches financial education and offersresources and innovative services to empowers individuals in all sectors of the community. SkyPoint Cares is broken down into four sub-programs that clearly define our deep commitment to economic growth.

  1. SkyPoint Thrive:This initiative removes obstacles and provides tools to create professionally successful individuals. Our Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), certification allows us to offer tailored resources and innovative programs that generate economic growth in mid to lower-income communities.In addition, CDFI credit unions earn federal grants to support the unbanked and underbanked populations within their field of membership. In June this past year the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Rapid Response Program (CDFI RRP) grant provided SkyPoint $1.8 million in capital for us to respond to economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. The grant funds arebeing used to support eligible activities such as financial products, financial services, development services, and certain operational activities. Specifically, the CDFI RRP awards allow SkyPoint to help businesses keep their doors open and help families make ends meet.

Two examples of these financial services include our business development loan and our immigration loan.

  • BusinessDevelopment Loans:We have seen first-hand the financial devastation the pandemic has had on our members in underserved communities and this business development loan has been critical to their survival and recovery. Specifically, we offered the Emergency Loan Program that focused on supporting members with lower loan ratesand extended borrowing dates. Our special underwriting criteria allows SkyPoint members access to financial support needed to move forward.
  • Pathway Loan:The immigration process and government expenses can be daunting for immigrant individuals and families. This unsecured loan helps people more easily manage the process. The program offers a low fixed interest rate, repayment terms up to 36 months and loan amounts up to $4,000; $1,255 per immigration application. All that is required is a photo ID, and verification of address and income. Complimentary financial education and credit counseling are also included as part of the application process. When all members of our community are financially secure, the entire region begins to thrive.

To fully support our members, we became the only Juntos Avanzamos credit union in Maryland and Virginia. We serve Spanish-speaking people regardless of immigration status. Juntos Avanzamos credit unions council members on how to navigate the U.S. financial system and provide safe, affordable financial services. This designation also certifies that SkyPoint’s employees, website and service applications are fully bilingual.

  • SkyPoint at Work:Corporations are all unique and what makes them succeed is unique as well. SkyPoint at Work embodies our credo “We Make Banking Simple.” We acknowledge that our community partners are all distinct, and we work with them to provide tailor-made partnership programs that help employees succeed. We concentrate on educating and supporting employees on all financial matters to drive success and advancement by helping them reach their overall goals.
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SkyPoint hosted a Back-to-School Bonanza on August 22, 2021 at the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase in partnership with MedStar Health and the Montgomery County Police Department. From left, Officer Dana Stroman of the Montgomery County Police Department; Audra Pettus of SkyPoint; Brianne Cronin of YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase; and Sgt. Pete Johnson of the Montgomery County Police Department.

  • SkyPoint Connect:Local mom and pop shops, gas stations and non-profits are the backbone of every community. We concentrate on helping small businesses and other community entities grow by connecting them with a robust program of solutions, products, and tools. We provide financial wellness strategies to our partners at no additional cost, onsite account opening and financial workshops.
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SkyPoint serving at a community event withCassandre Cassamajor, Community Development Representative and Audra Pettus, Community Relations Director.

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From left to right: Cassandre Cassamajor, Community Development Representative- SkyPoint FCU; Audra Pettus, Community Relations Director- SkyPoint FCU; Dr. Thea Mitchell-Anderson,Assistant Principal- Blair G. Ewing Center @ Plum Orchard; and Anarosa Chicas, Community Development Representative- SkyPoint FCU.

  • SkyPoint Serves:We live and work within the communities we serve. As actual members of these communities, part of our mission is and always will be to put our passion and energy to good use in the neighborhoods that surround us. SkyPoint Serves is our volunteer initiative. Through this program, we roll up our sleeves and collaborate with non-profit organizations like Manna for Food, DC Central Kitchen, and many others to volunteer. Our volunteer approach includes fundraising, donations, and employee volunteer services.
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From left to right: Celeste King, Principal- South Lake Elementary; Jordy Guerrero, Community Development Rep- SkyPoint FCU; Audra Pettus- Community Relations Director- SkyPoint FCU; and Anarosa Chicas, Community Development Rep- SkyPoint FCU.

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Audra Pettus serving the community at South Lake Elementary School with back-to-school supplies.

Our Community Outreach Programs support stability by collaborating with community partners, special interest groups, and non-profit organizations. Additional outreach efforts include financial wellness seminars that are held around the community and throughout public-school systems. Often the seminars focus on topics such as budgeting, saving, and credit building. Ultimately, the greater financial awareness and stability there is within the community, the greater growth and financial stability the region can experience.

For more information about SkyPoint and our Community Outreach Programs please visit us online www.skypointfcu.com.

About Author:
Jim Norris, CEO of SkyPoint Federal Credit Union, is a changemaker who is deeply committed to make banking simple by providing a wide variety of financial solutions for the Latino community, in the most supportive manner possible. SkyPoint is Juntos Avanzamos Certified, a CDFI institution, and their leadership is DEI Certified through Georgetown University. SkyPoint is headquartered in Germantown, Maryland and operates throughout communities in Maryland, DC, and Virginia.

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