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CU System
Younger crowd gets the GAC experience
WASHINGTON (3/2/10)--Ken Worthey Jr., marketing specialist at Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va., summed up his experience with Crash the GAC in Washington, D.C., last week like this: GAC was an eye-opening experience. Worthey was one of 20 young professionals who attended the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) with “Crash the GAC.” Crash was organized by Brent Dixon, young adult adviser at the Filene Research Institute and consultant with REAL Solutions. Crashers received scholarships to attend the conference from the CUNA Center for Professional Development, paid for their own travel costs and stayed at a hostel courtesy of Palmetto Cooperative Services. Worthey, who started with Belvoir five years ago as a teller, said of the GAC: “It helped me to put in perspective how wide the scope of the industry is and the changes we make in the world. The Crash enabled us to collaborate with professionals our age and share ideas about the industry.” GAC recharged Matt Vance’s credit union batteries and gave him a sense of belonging. “We were able to have an impact on credit union leadership and show them that we do care about the future of our movement, we know more [about the industry] than just flashy Gen Y checking accounts and we’re willing to proactively learn what is needed to be in their position in the future,” said Vance, marketing coordinator at Industrial CU, Bellingham, Wash. Aside from learning that “[CUNA President/CEO] Dan Mica is listening to Norah Jones and Ray Charles on his iPod,” and “if you want a hot shower at a hostel, you need to wake up before 6:30 a.m.,” Vance said he learned about the heart and soul of the credit union industry--people helping people. Organizer Dixon said he learned there is a huge need for intergenerational collaboration. “Spending a week with pioneers of the movement really highlighted that our generation needs mentors. I think both age groups have a lot to learn from each other,” he said. Chad Helminak, crasher, Web producer and media relations manager for the Wisconsin CU League, said GAC was energizing. “The scope of credit unions across the nation--and globe--is very impressive and it brings a sense of pride to be a part of that. “As we networked and shared ideas with our fellow crashers and leaders of our movement, it was reaffirming to realize that there are so many people working towards the same goals as we are everyday: to improve the lives of our members and communities,” he said. Robbie Wright, founder of CU Innovators, Salem, Ore., is a GAC veteran. As a crasher, Wright said he felt more involved with industry people. “Between attending the general sessions and our crashers’ breakout sessions, we were very busy,” Wright said. “It introduced our group to a lot of people they may have never met had they not crashed the GAC. For example, I’d seen Gigi Hyland speak, but never got to speak with her one-on-one.” Dixon agreed. “One of the greatest things about attending an industry-wide conference is that it brings perspective,” he said. “Crashing the GAC got us out from behind our desks and showed us the scope of the movement. We spent time with Pete Crear [president/CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions] on the first day, and the work credit unions are doing in developing countries is unbelievable.” During GAC, crashers said they especially liked networking, discussion sessions and Capitol Hill visits to meet lawmakers. They also loved seeing the passion for credit unions from others at the conference, and meeting some of the movement’s pioneers. For some crashers, GAC was their first visit to Washington, D.C. But they’d also like to see the credit union movement be more active. Credit unions make up 6% of the financial marketplace--and crashers said they want to see the industry step up and increase that share. Crashers also want to move beyond their “Gen Y” stereotype. Instead of just being counted on by their credit unions to help sell products and services to youth, crashers said they are interested in bigger issues--like savings and lending. Credit union representatives who spent time with crashers noted their enthusiasm about the industry. “In my interactions with them, they struck me as incredibly passionate, intelligent and engaged young credit union professionals,” said Christopher Morris, Web manager for the CUNA Councils. “This group saw their Crash opportunity as great for their own professional development, but more than that--they really wanted the opportunity to network and grow their ability to help their members and credit unions,” said Meghann Dawson, CUNA instructional design manager. Dawson represented CUNA at the event and helped coordinate Crash. "They see their jobs as part of a movement and really want to be part of moving credit unions on to bigger and better things. If the Crash experience continues--they hope to also be seen as resources to the other GAC attendees.” “Part of CPD’s goal is to provide professional development assistance for our young members--so this was a great fit for us,” Dawson said. Some also plan to “crash” the 1 Credit Union Conference, sponsored by CUNA and WOCCU, in Las Vegas, July 11-14. Vance is one of them. “These crashes provide so much value for young credit union professionals,” he said. “By fostering the credit union passion in them at a young age, we have a better chance of keeping them in the industry and pushing us higher and higher into the future.” “It was such a great week,” Dixon added. “I wouldn't trade the new relationships and conversations we had for anything. By the end of the week we were talking about how to keep this momentum going among the group and across the industry. As we all went home, we agreed it was the beginning of something rather than the end. “The GAC is all about using the passion of our industry to make change,” he said. “Our group just wants to be there with the rest of you. We want to make change with you. We love the work credit unions are doing, and the sooner we can be deeply involved the better.” Dan Emery, marketing specialist at Maine State CU in Augusta, summed up his experience with Crash the GAC in Washington, D.C., last week with a well-known Confucius quote: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
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