In a Nutshell: Credit unions are known for being community-centered institutions, and San Diego-based Mission Federal Credit Union embodies this, especially in the area of education. Mission Fed offers products and programs that help children develop healthy financial habits through hands-on experience with money management. It also provides financial education to teachers and support staff and maintains partnerships that support schools and assist teachers in providing fresh, engaging learning opportunities. Mission Fed’s community engagement extends beyond financial literacy to philanthropy that benefits San Diego as a whole. Because of this commitment to community support and education, we’re recognizing Mission Federal Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
When someone hands a Girl Scout a $50 bill, you expect to see her hand back change and a few boxes of cookies. And you probably wouldn’t expect her to examine the bill.
But that’s what happened one day in San Diego when some Girl Scouts realized a large bill was missing some important, distinguishing features.
“They felt the money, they saw the money, they didn’t find the fibers in the paper, which are all things they learned when they came in for our program,” said Angie Lasagna, Vice President of Community Relations and External Affairs at Mission Federal Credit Union.
Most people don’t possess this kind of attention to detail when it comes to handling money and identifying counterfeit bills. But Mission Fed seeks to remedy that by helping San Diegans better understand physical currency as well as personal finance topics, like budgeting and saving. Customer owned and community oriented, Mission Fed invests heavily in outreach and philanthropic programs with an emphasis on financial education, especially in schools.
“A lot of people think that the bell in our logo is a mission bell, but it’s actually a school bell because we started out at a borrowed desk at the San Diego Office of Education,” Lasagna said.
The institution began as a teachers’ credit union with 66 customers, whom they refer to as members; today, its membership includes more than 230,000 people who live, work, or go to school in San Diego County, providing financial services and community support wherever it’s needed. This commitment to going above and beyond in terms of social responsibility and education is the reason we’re recognizing Mission Federal Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for spreading financial literacy to the San Diego community.
Education Helps Kids Develop Healthy Money Habits
Children who are financially literate are more likely to go to college, graduate, and move on to successful careers. And the sooner financial education is introduced, the more time there is to reinforce and expand that knowledge as children get older.
Mission Fed’s partnerships with local schools provide products and opportunities that help establish and maintain responsible financial behavior among the younger generation. Let’s take a closer look at how Mission Fed is going about enacting change in this area.
Mission 2 $AVE Rewards Financial Responsibility
Nearly 6,000 elementary school students at 51 San Diego schools and youth groups have Mission 2 $AVE Accounts, part of a youth savings program that teaches children how saving money works.
Working with volunteers at each partner campus, Mission Fed employees accept deposits from students. This gives them a sense of control and ownership of their money, and it gives them a chance to apply the math skills they’re learning in class.
As students make deposits and grow their savings, they develop sound financial habits reinforced with rewards and prizes, establishing behavior students will retain and benefit from for the rest of their lives.
JA BizTown Introduces Children to Adult Financial Decision-Making
The McGrath Family JA BizTown is a program sponsored in part by Mission Fed and hosted at the campus of Junior Achievement of San Diego County. This simulation allows fifth-grade students to run a 10,000-square-foot city modeled after San Diego.
Preceded by several weeks of in-class learning, the four-and-a-half-hour exercise tests students’ understanding of citizenship, economics, the job market, and running a business. Students are expected to perform a job, get paid, participate in business and community meetings, manage a checking account, and make purchases. This provides hands-on experience in learning adult responsibilities and managing personal finance. JA BizTown students can also participate in Mission 2 $AVE.
Finance Park Prepares Teens for Life After High School
The Mission Fed JA Finance Park simulation is much like JA BizTown, except it’s geared toward high school sophomores, who are starting to think about going to college when they graduate. (The simulation is also open to local nonprofits to use in adult education.)
Each participant receives an avatar and a real-life scenario. Like JA BizTown, this interactive exercise is preceded by in-class learning and book exercises. Over the course of their day at Mission Fed JA Finance Park, students will work at their jobs, manage their finances, and participate in the community, all of which provides a realistic sampling of what their lives might look like in a few short years.
Products and Programs Help Girl Scouts Manage Money
Mission Fed partners with Girl Scouts San Diego, which encompasses more than 200,000 scouts, volunteers, and employees. The Girl Scouts have access to a Mission 2 $ave program just like the ones run at public schools. But the scouts, who will be dealing with accepting payments sooner than most children, also participate in a program called Girl Scout Takeover.
Troops visit Mission Fed branch offices, where they learn about personal finance and earn their Money Madness badges. As part of the program, Girl Scouts learn how to distinguish the physical characteristics of money, which came in handy when the two scouts mentioned earlier caught that counterfeit bill someone tried to use to pay for cookies.
Outreach and Education Support Teachers and Schools
In an era of increasing cuts and dwindling budgets, external contributions to schools are more crucial than ever.
In response to this need, Mission Fed offers products and services that provide teachers and institutions with valuable financial education and assistance.
Donations Provide Unrestricted Academic Funds
Mission for Our Schools Accounts promote financial health for account holders and public schools. When a member opens a checking account, Mission Fed deposits $25 into the account and donates another $25 to a school of the member’s choosing.
These funds have no restrictions, so the school can use them for any purpose, from pencils to printers to playground equipment.
“We donate quite a bit of money through our Mission for Our Schools program,” Lasagna said.
Continuing Education Improves Teachers’ Financial Lives
Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from financial education on campus. Mission Fed also conducts seminars for teachers and staff on topics like financial planning, budgeting, preparing for retirement, and first-time home buying to help educators and employees enjoy greater financial well-being.
Of course, it’s not all work and no play; Mission Fed also sponsors School Staff Appreciation Days, during which employees of educational institutions get four free tickets to the San Diego County Fair to enjoy valuable leisure time.
Access to Parks and Museums Expands Learning Beyond the Classroom
Mission Fed’s partnership with the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park provides children 11 and younger with free admission during the month of October. They must be accompanied by an adult, but each adult can bring up to 10 children, making it a low-cost field trip option for public school teachers.
Mission Fed has also partnered with the San Diego Museum Council to provide kids 12 and younger with free admission to 48 museums, also during October. This gives them the opportunity to learn about art, science, and history, developing well-rounded adults with diverse interests and appreciation for culture and learning.
Community Outreach in San Diego Promotes Well-Being in All Areas of Life
Mission Fed’s community outreach takes a variety of other forms, as well. It sponsors segments on local TV and radio stations to recognize outstanding teachers and students and to provide financial advice directly from Mission Fed professionals. Mission Fed distributes financial news, tips, and tools to the public via its Live Smart Bank Smart blog, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Mission Fed supports the arts in San Diego by providing Title I students with free access to The New Children’s Museum. It also coordinates and helps fund the annual Mission Federal ArtWalk, a free festival showcasing visual and performing artists from the US and Mexico. This initiative benefits ArtReach San Diego’s ongoing mission of art education in the community.
Mission Fed goes even further in operating Go Red for Women, a fundraising campaign in support of the American Heart Association, San Diego Chapter. It likewise raises funds and awareness for Rady Children’s Hospital, a San Diego pediatric medical center.
Financial education is just one piece of Mission Fed’s work. As a local, community-oriented institution, Mission Fed is committed to physical and community health, as well as financial health. Altogether, these goals add up to a mission to improve the overall quality of life for San Diegans and the community they share.