Gesa CU Gives the Tools for Financial Literacy

Becoming financially savvy is growing in popularity in our modern society, but for many, there’s still a shroud of mystery and confusion on how to make the most of their money. 

Gesa Credit Union is on a mission to make financial “know-how” accessible to everyone. 

Their primary tools to achieve this has been a new and exciting resource called Gesa University, its High School Credit Union Program, and Bite of Reality Fairs, a tried-and-true financial simulation that is brought to schools, through a partnership with the GoWest Foundation, and delivers a dose of real-life budgeting to students. 

Helping programs like these come to life is a group of dedicated Gesa employees like Stephen Kurtz, Education Specialist I, and Scott Wagoner, AVP, Creative Director.  

“Financial education is a pillar of Gesa’s mission, so we are constantly reaching out to our community to let them know we have awesome tools to share and empower the next generation,” said Kurtz. 

Gesa University is a series of free online courses that help you understand and manage finances as you walk through different stages of life.   

Its slogan shines a light on the philosophy that finances don’t have to be daunting: 

To those who say, “I’m not good with money”, we say not “yet.”  

With user-friendly videos, articles, and helpful knowledge checks, Gesa University aims to make finances approachable to everyone in their community and beyond. 

 “By providing accessible and high-quality financial education, we empower our members to navigate the complexities of finance through various life stages, make sound financial choices, and ultimately achieve their financial goals,” said Wagoner. 

  In one month Gesa had over 400 student graduates from the university! 

“Many members have shared stories of debt repayment, establishing emergency funds, and learning simple tips they had not known before,” said Wagoner. “It is incredibly gratifying to witness the positive changes our members have made in their lives as a direct result of the financial education they received from Gesa University.” 

Kurtz plays a significant role in overseeing another impactful initiative, the High School Credit Union program. It’s a program across 12 Washington schools where students gain hands-on experience by running a “mini branch” in their school. 

A student intern serves as the Campus Branch Manager and operates as a teller at a local Gesa branch, gaining valuable managerial and financial experience. 

“It’s rewarding to see students develop through the program and become an ambassador for financial education, said Kurtz. “When students shine and influence other students to be more confident in their finances, it’s a huge win for the credit union.” 

Gesa also partners with schools and the community to bring financial education to students through Bite of Reality Fairs.  

 This hands-on experience assigns students a career choice and starting salary, then asks them to develop a balanced monthly budget, paying for items like housing, transportation, and childcare. Throughout the fair, students are faced with temptations for additional spending and must learn to balance their wants and needs.  

Gesa has even brought in car salespeople as volunteers to upsell students as they make purchasing decisions.  

 “You’ll see some students trying to return their recently bought boat,” said Kurtz. “It’s all about giving students a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them.”  

Strong financial literacy serves as the foundation for sustainable financial wellness in life, yet many people do not receive financial education during their adolescence or adulthood. Credit unions like Gesa aim to change that narrative. By equipping community members with all of the tools necessary to gain enough understanding surrounding finances, they feel confident and empowered to seek out a sense of financial stability and well-being for themselves.   

 If you’re interested in learning more about how the Foundation helps credit unions through Bite of Reality Fairs, visit the GoWest Foundation website. 

Posted in All Articles, Financial Education, Financial Reality Fairs, Friends of the Foundation.