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    From Good to Growth – Youth Reality Fairs

    Hundreds of thousands of students around the country each year have access to financial literacy training through classroom presentations. Many of these classroom presentations are given my credit union staff and in numerous cases these initiatives have been pioneered by credit unions. However, a new concept in financial literacy education is sweeping the country and again it is credit unions that are leading the charge.

    Reality Fairs, or Credit for Life Fairs as they are known are being organized by credit unions to give middle and high school students the opportunity to learn about managing their money in a practical and fun way. The Fairs are usually held in school gymnasiums, for two to three hours. They are staffed by 50 to 80 credit union volunteers. Students are given a job and an income and have to learn to live within their income by visiting booths designed to cater to their essential needs and to tempt them to part with their money, just as in real life.

    A great place for credit unions to start is CU4Reality, a relatively turn-key reality fair program by America's Credit Union Museum. Another is CUNA's Mad City Money.

    Have you done a reality fair? What have you learned from the experience?

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  1. We have done what we call a “Mad Cit Money Simulation” where we have helped over 300 students learn financial planning skills in a fun safe environment. We got the template for the workshop from CUNA and customized it for our events. We work with the YMCA, Department of Education, and parents to make the workshops happen. I have pictures from our most recent one in March if you would like them.

  2. The Brockton, MA Credit for Life Fair is the oldest continuing Fair in the country, and yesterday we completed our 10th successful event. Approximately 2,500 students have participated since inception. Over the years, many others have visited our Fair and we “pay it forward” by giving them all they need to run their own. Now we estimate that there are well over 50 venues primarily in New England, but it is now spreading rapidly across the nation. Yesterday, for example, we had a leader in youth financial literacy education fly overnight from California to witness the event, and he left very impressed. We are certain that he will be a catalyst for further expansion.

    We welcome other inquiries. Please contact me at my e-mail address: lmacneil [at] harborone [dot] com

  3. Connecticut CUs started cooperatively offering Fairs to HS students last year and will pass 3,000 students this year (7 Fairs last year, 8 this year).

    HS students are interested in learning about living on their own and although they have thought about individual costs, it is always a shock for them to see all the expenses together and how it depletes their net pay! We are finding this is excellent exposure for CUs and raises our profile in a non-selling way.

    We talk about the importance of looking for a financial institution that meets the student’s needs, has good rates, and they should include credit unions when looking for an institution.

    For more information on CT Fairs, check our website (culct.coop – click on the pencil) or contact me at bbass@culct.coop. An excellent experience that has brought our CUs actively together in communities throughout the state.

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