In a Nutshell: In 1952, a credit union was founded to serve the employees of Hughes Aircraft Company. Today, Hughes Federal Credit Union serves all of Tucson — and not only through its banking services and financial products. Hughes goes further by prioritizing community education and improvement, and it pursues these goals through financial literacy programs for children and adults. Through the Hughes Helps program, the credit union raises money for local organizations and charitable causes, such as funding scholarships and collecting donations for the Credit Unions for Kids/Children’s Miracle Network and the Tucson Medical Center. Because of this commitment to financial and community well-being, we’ve decided to recognize Hughes with our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
On June 6, 2018, the temperature in Tucson reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the scorching heat wasn’t enough to stop Hughes Federal Credit Union’s first Shred-a-Thon, an event dedicated to free document shredding and educating participants on the importance of data security.
“It was an overwhelming success. We shredded over 20,000 pounds for members and non-members in the community,” said Danielle Gomez, Marketing Manager at Hughes.
In addition to teaching people about data privacy and preventing identity theft, Hughes also saved the community nearly $20,000 in shredding fees. This event exemplifies Hughes’ fundamental goals: advancing financial education and general well-being for everyone in the Tucson community.
Hughes was founded in 1952 to serve employees of Hughes Aircraft Company (now known as Raytheon Missile Systems Company). The financial institution merged with Arizona Transportation Credit Union in 1992, and in 2001, the National Credit Union Administration approved Hughes to provide banking services to everyone living, working, worshipping, or studying in Tucson.
“We are part of this community, and everything definitely makes an impact,” Gomez said. “We’re really fortunate to be able to give back and have a culture that allows us to participate in community-wide events and focus on financial literacy.”
Hughes, which Forbes recently ranked the No. 1 credit union in Arizona in its inaugural Best-In-State Banks and Credit Unions list, now serves 120,000 members and holds over $1.1 billion in assets. In addition to providing for the community’s banking needs, Hughes also places a high priority on financial education and community outreach, which is why we’re recognizing the Hughes Helps program with our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
Providing Free Financial Education at Every Stage of Life
While providing banking products and services is its primary function, Hughes is dedicated to advancing the financial health of its members and the Tucson community at large.
Through community partners and staff-led initiatives, Hughes is helping children develop financial literacy skills and habits, while also providing seminars for adults who didn’t have the benefit of adequate financial education earlier in life.
Educational Resources for Teachers and Students
“We’re bringing financial literacy into the schools, which is really important,” Gomez said. “When I went through school, there wasn’t any type of course like this. I made all those mistakes that young people make.”
Through its partnership with Banzai, which specializes in creating financial literacy content, Hughes provides financial education that helps young people think seriously about money and begin developing positive financial habits. One of Hughes’ educational efforts entails supplying affiliated schools with financial literacy workbooks that can be used in any class, whether math, economics, or social studies.
“We pay for all of it, so the teachers can order as many as they need,” Gomez said.
The program’s curriculum is tailored to meet Arizona’s statewide academic standards, and it is flexible enough to be implemented in classrooms over any period of time. The workbook’s central exercise is a virtual simulation wherein students are tasked with saving $2,000 for college while navigating various financial obstacles. If they succeed, they win the game and pass the test.
“The students are faced with real-life scenarios, like if your car broke down. Do you buy a really expensive car, or do you get your car fixed, or do you buy a new car that’s a little bit cheaper? Whatever they pick puts them into the next scenario,” Gomez said.
Another example is the question of renter’s insurance, which the game will prompt users to purchase. If the students decline, their virtual apartment may flood, emphasizing the benefits of insuring their possessions.
At the end of the module, a Hughes representative comes to the class as a guest speaker, and students will have the chance to engage them in a question-and-answer session.
“Currently, we’re in 15 schools. We’ve had a reach of over 1,200 students through Banzai and another 690 students through community partnerships since 2017,” Gomez said. “And what’s really nice is the students can actually give us feedback. They say things like, ‘Saving money is harder than it looks,’ or ‘I learned that insurance can save you a lot in accidents,’ or ‘ I learned that it’s important to pay yourself first and how to prioritize my wants and needs.’”
Financial Literacy Outside the Classroom
Hughes realizes the benefits of putting children on an early track to financial security. And it recognizes that many adults also struggle with financial literacy. To remedy that, Hughes offers educational seminars for grown-ups, as well.
“We’ve teamed up with a number of community partners and nonprofits to be able to offer financial education to adults,” Gomez said. These hour-long seminars cover topics like basic budgeting, real estate trends, identity protection, and retirement planning, and Hughes has reached 442 adults since 2017.
Gomez told us the budgeting seminar is the most popular. “Believe it or not, a lot of people have difficulty designing a basic budget. I think it’s a little intimidating at times for people,” she said. “So what we do is break it down so that we’re actually putting it on paper. It’s a little old-school, but it really helps people see their financial state. We have a number of handouts, and we actually have a budget worksheet. It breaks down everything from your rent to your utilities to your entertainment funds to even miscellaneous needs.”
You read that correctly — entertainment is a budget category. Far from being a financial gatekeeper, Hughes believes in helping people achieve financial health without sacrificing personal satisfaction and leisure. “We work to live,” Gomez said. “We don’t live to work.”
Raising and Disbursing Funds to Meet Community Needs
April is Youth Month and Financial Literacy Month at Hughes, and in 2018, 1,330 members under 18 deposited a total of $479,658. As an extension of Hughes’ financial literacy outreach, these accounts help teach young people the importance of saving and give them a way of establishing and maintaining that crucial habit.
Hughes also supports young people by giving back to the community through the Hughes Helps program, which awards scholarships to help high school seniors fund their college educations. The program also conducts fundraisers to support important local institutions.
Scholarships for Local Students’ Higher Education Needs
Each year, Hughes awards five $2,000 scholarships to Tucson high school seniors. But 2017 was a little different, in that students weren’t limited to written applications.
“The students were able to submit either an essay or a video, which was really cool,” Gomez said. “We could see that creative side from some of our students. It was just an overwhelming success.” The credit union received a record-breaking 70 scholarship applications from college-bound students.
At the end of the year, Gomez presents the scholarships to recipients at their high schools’ senior award night. “We give them a certificate and a gift bag and tell their peers and the parents that they were awarded a scholarship for college from Hughes,” Gomez said. This hands-on, personal engagement helps emphasize the importance of education for young people, as well as Hughes’ commitment to their future success.
Fundraisers to Support Children’s Health
In spring and winter, Hughes branch offices hold fundraisers to benefit the Credit Unions for Kids/Children’s Miracle Network and the Tucson Medical Center. Open to members and employees, participants can donate a dollar or more. In exchange for these donations, they receive a paper icon and an entry in a drawing to win a gift basket.
Hughes has also partnered with the CO-OP Financial Services’ Miracle Match assistance program, which helps credit unions fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. And, in 2017, Hughes raised $37,000 to support local children’s health organizations.
Making a Positive Difference in the Tucson Community
Financial literacy, scholarships, and fundraising are only a few examples of the many ways Hughes contributes to the Tucson community’s quality of life.
In 2017, Hughes Help distributed a total of $120,000 to more than 100 local, community-oriented organizations to support local arts, leisure, safety, and a variety of other causes.
Through financial education, Hughes pursues its stated service mission to “Always make a positive difference in each member’s financial life.” Through fundraising and financial support for local organizations and community programs, Hughes goes above and beyond this goal; it reaches community members and makes a difference in their lives, financial or otherwise, for the good of Tucson as a whole.