SYRACUSE, N.Y.-Given the number of youth-oriented programs $20 million Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union offers, it was only natural that its latest initiative would involve high schools.

When the CDFI credit union entered the NerdWallet Gen Y Credit Union Contest it proposed a savings competition that uses "positive peer pressure," according to Meagan Weatherby, program sustainability and outreach coordinator. She said the contest will take place at three high schools at which the CU-which refers to itself as Cooperative Federal-has branches.

"Teams will be comprised of two to three students," she said. "Whichever team saves the most at each school over four to six months, everyone on the team wins prize money. Teammates will be supporting each other and encouraging each other to avoid temptations such as going to the mall or having a meal out."

Because area schools just opened a few weeks after SCFCU was named one of the NerdWallet winners, it still is setting up the contest details, Weatherby added.

"This really fits in with what we do, which is help high school or college graduates," she said. "We do a lot with our three in-school branches. We offer savings accounts, prepaid cards and work experience. Some students further intern at the credit union after school."


Help Make Decisions

Cooperative Federal takes an "educational approach" to its efforts to engage younger people, Weatherby continued. She said the CU's philosophy, with adults or youth, is to help people make decisions.

"Our youth program puts a strong emphasis on shopping around and making good financial decisions," she said. "By bringing education to classes it makes it relevant to their daily lives. We have done financial education in schools for a number of years, and the in-school branches are a spin-off of that."

With all this outreach, Weatherby said SCFCU has had success attracting younger members. She said there is a great deal of "traction" in building relationships over the years.

"We have one member who joined the youth program several years ago and now is in the new homebuyer program," she said. "Since 2009, we have opened more than 200 accounts between our high school and elementary programs."

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