2020 Wright Patman Scholarship
Congressional Federal awarded three $3,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors based on their academic standing and their answer to this essay question: How do you feel the credit union can best serve you and your peers?
2020 saw a record number of entries for our annual scholarship. The Board selected the winners for their thoughtful explorations. We're proud to have the authors as members, and we wish them all the best in their bright academic futures and beyond.
Read the winning essays below!
Ever since I can remember, my parents have been a member of the Congressional Federal
Credit Union. While they joined when they worked on Capitol Hill, they continued their
membership even when leaving those jobs and eventually moving across the country. I
remember when we moved to Colorado, I asked my dad if he was going to find a new bank since
he could no longer get to a local branch of the credit union. He smiled when he responded and
said that he would rather be a “member” of a distant credit union than a “customer” at a local
bank. It took me a while to understand what he meant. But when I was doing research for this
application, I now understand that a credit union is truly a community of people whose primary
mission to serve each other, while a bank is a business whose primary mission is to make a profit
for its owners or shareholders. Much like being a member of your family, no matter if you move
across the country, you are still a member wherever you are physically located.
Seeing the impact that the Congressional Federal Credit Union has had on my family has
shown me how much of a positive impact the credit union can have on me and my peers. With
the economy being volatile to change and loans difficult to come by, home ownership is a distant
dream for many people of my generation. Knowing that the credit union is member-owned
provides security in taking out a home loan because I know they aren't trying to only turn a profit
and instead are trying to help me become as financially stable as possible. Seeing an organization
care about its members instills confidence in the financial decisions I will make in the future.
From a young age I have been taught the importance of having good credit if I ever
wanted to take out a loan. Unfortunately, many banks and credit card companies don't make
learning proper credit management easy, but that's where the credit union is able to help my
generation. By providing a secure environment to learn how to manage debt and build good
credit, I can lay the foundation for a financially successful future. Not only does the credit union
provide a stable environment to learn about proper loan and debt management, there are a
plethora of resources that can educate me on the topics. This is a contrast to the less personal
nature of banks where their primary motivation is to make profit, rather than proper treatment of
their patrons. This was particularly evident with the administration of the recent payroll
protection legislation where big national banks made it difficult for small businesses and
individuals to go through the application process. Not only does the credit union provide
resources on credit and loan management, but there are also resources and contacts for learning
proper accounting and investment. A large part of a retirement fund is often investing your
money into the stock or real estate markets. Schools often do a sub-par job of educating about
these topics and therefore having a money management support network is incredibly important
for myself and my peers to retire at a reasonable age.
The benefits to being a member of a credit union are immeasurable. In this digital age of
constant change, the credit union provides the groundwork for a stable financial future which
normal banks will not often provide. The credit union can best serve me and my peers by
continuing the work of providing a member oriented support network, resources for learning
credit and debt management, teaching us how to invest for our future, and laying the groundwork
so that everyone has a chance at a stable financial future.
Unfortunately, the last thing on any graduating high school senior’s mind right now is credit
unions. My friends are tied up in worries about handling college, how COVID-19 is going to affect their
semesters, and how they are going to pay tuition with such widespread financial insecurity. As trying as
the past few months have been for the world as a whole, there is certainly good to be gleaned from it.
People are outside more. Families are bonding. The collective efforts to end the pandemic have brought
people together no matter how many miles apart they may actually be. These past few months have also
made clear to me that the primary issue on the mind of every graduating high school senior is security. So
while my peers might not be thinking about the Congressional Federal Credit Union right now, it is
exactly what can help offer relevant, accessible information on regaining financial security in this
The pandemic has moved everything that could possibly be made digital to the internet, meaning
this is the prime time for the Congressional Federal Credit Union to undertake online outreaches--not only
because everything is moving online, but because this is the time where my peers are determining how
they will pay for college, and are navigating difficulties due to COVID-19 that the credit union can help
them with. Maintaining any community, especially that of the credit union, requires reaching out to my
generation. This outreach is most effectively done through social media. Almost all my friends use
Instagram, which is a fantastic way for Congressional Federal Credit Union to build an online social
media presence that directly interacts with my generation. Instagram’s options for interactive
livestreaming allows viewers to ask questions, making it ideal to communicate the benefits of
Congressional Federal Credit Union and answer inquiries about the ways they serve students. An
Instagram account can also advertise services, and link to the website. Although the credit union already
offers many online resources and great opportunities for taking student loans, publicizing these benefits
through a widely used social media platform will reach students directly.
The most relevant financial topic to myself and my peers at this time in our lives is student loans.
My education has left me with the ability to easily analyze Hamlet’s soliloquies, but a complete lack of
knowledge about finance. Many of my peers are in the same boat, struggling to figure out the best way to
approach student loans, which almost every student applying to college must consider. The credit union
could assist us by filling that lack in the American education system, and offering basic information
online about the financial needs we are encountering at this point in our lives. Addressing even the most
simple questions online--such as how one takes student loans, what smart financial decisions are for
taking loans, and how they will impact the student later--would not only help us, but also help raise
awareness for the Congressional Federal Credit Union and its benefits in regards to taking loans. This
would be especially helpful in the fall, when high school seniors begin the college application process,
and in the spring, when they receive admission letters and are discussing financial options. This outreach
to distribute basic, accessible information will help the credit union create a new, financially-conscious
generation that recognizes the importance of small credit unions. This outreach, either done through social
media or simply the credit union website, not only benefits my peers and I, but also the Congressional
Federal Credit union in spreading information about the benefits of membership.
With student loans being the top concern of my generation and the added stress of COVID-19
instability, many entirely put aside saving for future purchases, like a home or a car. However, knowing
how to approach these financial challenges and knowing that they are possible, despite the crisis, are
crucial landmarks in maturity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the homeowner’s rate has gone
down with just about every generation. The Congressional Federal Credit Union could help break this
trend by providing information on becoming financially independent in the first years of adulthood. Even
just offering a basic plan on how young adults can save for these expenses and approach loans would aid
my generation in defying the statistics, and gives us incentive to become involved in the credit union.
Affirming that attaining these things are still possible through the credit union would help serve my peers
through the pandemic.
By providing online programs specifically geared toward my generation, the Congressional
Federal Credit Union can forge a path for maintaining its unique, community-oriented financial benefits
in an uncertain time. By publicizing its benefits in ways that are accessible to myself and my peers, the
credit union guarantees that we will share this knowledge with our friends, creating a more informed and
financially conscious community. The usage of social media has only grown with the coronavirus crisis
and the increasing availability of online information, so there is no better time to create an Instagram
presence. Outreaches to my generation about our specific financial challenges will aid both the credit
unions and its members, retain community, and create a generation confident about its financial future.
One way the Congressional Federal Credit Union can assist graduating students is to provide financial literacy programs and low-interest rate student loans to qualifying students. A requirement of the student loan agreement should include that the student is required to participate in free webinars on various aspects of financial literacy such as understanding credit, high-interest rates on savings accounts, and low-interest credit cards. I firmly believe that these are life skills that are much needed not only for young adults of my generation but for persons of any age.
As a high school senior, I have received several advertisements in the mail, which encouraged me to apply for a credit card with various companies to start building my credit history. Initially, when I received these advertisements, I thought to myself, "I don't have a job. How can I afford a credit card?". However, after speaking with my father, I was told that this would be an excellent opportunity to establish a credit history. After researching the pros and cons of building good credit, I then understood how applying, receiving, and responsibly maintaining a credit card will positively affect my credit profile. I learned that credit ratings affect different facets of your life, including job opportunities, home buying, and loan approval. I was enlightened to learn that some employers perform credit checks on potential candidates to assess how responsible the individual is with their credit. Using this information, employers believe that whether or not an individual is a good steward over their finances, this is a sign of how responsible and credible of an employee they will be. Many of life's larger purchases, such as graduate school, houses, and cars, require financing. The major part of financing is creditworthiness.
Low-interest rate credit cards will assist students in establishing a credit history. Like me, many college freshman have not held a "real job" and do not have a credit fingerprint. Some companies will provide students with credit cards at an inflated interest rate of 20 to 23 percent with a credit limit of $300. While I have no issues with the initial limit of $300 a lower interest rate and mandated financial literacy training, students will have a higher chance of success in this area. While building credit is essential, students must also understand the importance of saving. Increasing interest rates on savings account for college students would make saving money more attractive. People also like to receive perks. Congressional Federal Credit Union can provide quarterly incentives for amounts deposited during that time period. For example, persons who make five or more deposits a month will have 5 dollars deposited for each month into that savings account at the end of the quarter.
Historically financial literacy is not a subject discussed in many African American households. Possibly due to elders in the community not having a full understanding of the ability to financially plan past the present need for survival expenses. Becoming financially literate allows people to become self-reliant. Harnessing the ability to save money, distinguish the difference between wants and needs, manage a budget, pay bills, buy a home, pay for college, and plan for retirement.
Previous Winning Essays by Year
For an additional scholarship opportunity:
The Credit Union Foundation of Maryland and DC also offers a scholarship program for eligible students. For more information, visit the Credit Union Foundation of Maryland and DC