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2021 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: What would be your strategy for attracting people (especially your peers) to join the credit union?

2021 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!

Essay 01


This is a tricky challenge because of the limits on Congressional Federal Credit Union (CFCU)
membership. To attract my peers to join CFCU, my strategy has to build off of eligibility criteria.
Therefore, my initial approach would appeal to two audiences - parents and their children. Both
groups will need incentives and these incentives will need to support each other.

My strategy rests on a large assumption. CFCU has to be willing to offer monetary rewards.
Instead of putting a billboard in a Metro station, CFCU should target marketing dollars towards
prospective members. The dollar amount can be capped at a small amount, maybe around
$100. Another minor assumption is that CFCU can create or access financial education
classes.

There are two prongs to my strategy.

The first prong would be based on education. The entry requirement for the program is to take
a series of personal finance classes. CFCU would offer these courses to cover topics like credit
scores, credit cards, and mortgages. The classes could be online or in person - once COVID is
over! For each segment completed, the young member would be rewarded with $5 in their
account. After 3-5 classes, the young member would then be advanced to the next phase.

The second prong would be rewards for good grades. On a semester basis, the children will be
able to submit report cards for credit. An A would be worth $5, a B would be worth $3, and a C
would be worth $1. These could be credited twice a year.

This strategy mutually benefits parents, their kids, and CFCU . Parents are able to ensure that
their children learn good financial habits and effective money management. The rewards for
report cards also helps parents by giving kids incentivizes to earn good grades. Additionally,
the children are benefiting, not only from the money that their grades earn, but also from the
personal finance knowledge that they will study. Kids are not taught the importance of credit or
money management in high school, so these skills will benefit them once they step out into the
real world. Furthermore, CFCU profits off of this strategy because it is able to grow membership
as families sign up new members. Also, CFCU is able to build a pipeline for future members. If
CFCU can grow its membership, then it will continue to be able to offer great deals.

When implemented and successful, my approach could then be applied to other groups such as
working members and their younger siblings.

In conclusion, my strategy for attracting my peers to join Congressional Federal Credit Union
can reward all parties - members, children, and CFCU. Targeting my eligible peers through
educational programs and providing rewards that parents and kids will enjoy is a sure fire way
for CFCU to grow.
 

Essay 02


People my age do not spend much time thinking about financial matters except for things
like how much a prom dress costs or if they have enough money to go to college. Long term
financial considerations are not something I spend time thinking about either! As seniors in high
school, we are faced with so many decisions in preparation for the next steps in our lives so
getting my peers to listen about the benefits of joining the credit union would be challenging.

However, the information I would share would be some of the same things my parents
explained to me when we opened my account. Belonging to a credit union early and
purposefully planning for adulthood financially are important. The Congressional Federal Credit
Union will be there to serve me personally throughout all the stages of my life.

As a high school student, I have had a place to save money for college. I have been able
to access my money through my debit card when I could go out with friends prior to the
pandemic. These benefits will continue when I am in college. As a college student, I will get
my first credit card and as I work to establish a good credit score, the lower interest rates at the
credit union will help me. Having credit available will allow me to deal with emergencies when
I am far away from home. After I graduate, I will use the credit union to pay my bills and buy
my first home. Someday, my children will become members.

These are all things I could do at a bank, too, but the lower costs of a credit union will
benefit me. Congressional Federal Credit Union is also more customer friendly and looks out for
my interests not just the interests of the stockholders of a large corporation.

I know that credit union membership is important for me and my future. Sharing that
message with my peers would be the next challenge. When I started thinking about this essay, I
decided to talk to my friend about this topic. He did not know anything about a credit union. He
does not even have an account anywhere. I was surprised about that but also surprised that he
was interested in learning more. One of the things we teenagers talk about in school is that we
need to learn more real-life skills. This is one of those areas that would be helpful to everyone
no matter what their plans.

After talking, my friend has decided to join a credit union. He is just one person, but I
know this will be a positive step toward his future. Talking one on one to people about the credit
union seems an effective tactic. However, there are likely other ways to reach more people more
efficiently. Class presentations, social media, including it in the required school curriculum, are
just some of the ways that come to mind.

While I may not recruit a huge number of new credit union members, writing this essay
has at least made me think about how it benefits me and how I can share that information with
my peers and others. I am grateful my parents were able to ensure my membership with
Congressional Federal Credit Union. It is a financial legacy that will positively impact my life
and hopefully the lives of others who become members in the credit union.

Essay 03


My generation has lived nearly our whole lives in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis.
We knew banks could fail before we even really knew what banks were. We grew up while
watching the economy refusing to grow with us. We’ve heard the preaching about compound
interest, only to accumulate mere pennies on our college savings as interest rates refuse to rise
from rock bottom. In recent years, we’ve witnessed Wells Fargo and Bank of America betraying
their customers, and we’ve watched our favorite YouTubers lose $1.7 million to Ally Bank.

Needless to say, my peers aren’t exactly the biggest fans of the corporate order. Among
my fellow gen Z-ers, support for socialism now matches that of capitalism. Trust in banks is
down. Fears of a rising corporatocracy seem to be driving a wedge between young Americans
and our financial institutions.

Yet rejecting banks is a recipe for disaster. Without loans, how are we supposed to get
the college degrees we need to succeed, or the homes that will secure our futures? Without
savings, how will we survive inevitable financial shocks, be they as personal as a medical bill or
as global as a pandemic?

We know these things are important. Even before the pandemic, we knew how
vulnerable those without the safety nets of savings and assets and human capital were. We also
knew how hard those safety nets were to knot together with the cratering of home-buying rates
and the ballooning of student debt among our millennial predecessors. But how do we keep
moving forwards with a fire hose of bad news blasting us backwards?

The answer is that we have a rope to hold onto: community. What defines our
generation—more so than any financial crisis or even the pandemic—is the internet. For many
of us, it’s a second home. We’ve forged online communities around anything and everything,
from our favorite books to shared hobbies to LGBTQ+ identities. Even the most cynical among
us have made communities to celebrate and share that cynicism.

This is why I believe that credit unions offer the path to financial security for my
generation. They’re small non-profits instead of corporate behemoths, run by people who care
about ethics instead of profits, so we know we can trust them. Most importantly, they’re
communities, supporting us through our lives with more than just loans and savings accounts.
Even if we think the banks are broken, we can count on the credit unions to save our nest eggs.
We can trust them.

And now, the importance of credit and interest is higher than ever. The economic
devastation of COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of countless businesses, but just like
how a forest fire leaves the way clear for new growth, the ground is now fertile for me and my
peers to start our own businesses. With luck, a loan, and a lot of hard work, we can find
opportunity even amidst hardship.

For the rest of us, college degrees have only gotten more and more expensive as they
become less a guarantee of success and more a necessary but insufficient step towards it.
House purchases are put off and savings left empty. Yet with a credit union’s backing, paying off
student debt—as well as all our other financial goals—becomes possible.

The only thing that might stand in the way is how financially illiterate many of my
generation are. School doesn’t teach us how to pay taxes, and it doesn’t teach us the difference
between a bank and a credit union, either. Education, either through school programs or even
just a YouTube ad targeted at my age group, can let my peers know that there is another option.
Make it clear to us that we can secure our finances without empowering a corporate bank to
betray our futures.

And once we are aware of credit unions, we need to be able to access them. We’re the
internet generation; we’ll be the internet banking generation, too. A solid online banking platform
where we could create and access our accounts without ever going to an in person branch
removes any last barriers of inconvenience. Online ads or articles could point directly to a site
where users can register for an account, converting education to action.

My generation needs to know that there’s another option. We need to know that we don’t
have to hand our money over to suspicious corporate banks. Once we know there’s another
way, we’ll be happy to open an account at a credit union and never look back.