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Cornerstone Congratulates New CU Development Educators
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 6:55 AM

Cornerstone Credit Union League offers its congratulations to the newest 46 graduates of the National Credit Union Foundation's Development Educators (DE) program. Of the 46 certified CUDE graduates, 14 were from Texas and Oklahoma.

The mission of the Credit Union Development Education program is to promote credit unions’ social responsibility and domestic and international development through interactive adult education and professional networking. By linking credit unions’ past and present, the DE program brings renewed relevance to credit unions’ seven cooperative principles and the philosophy of “People Helping People.”

The graduates receiving the Credit Union Development Educators (CUDE) designation are:

  1. Cody Buchholz – Tinker FCU
  2. Philip Crocker – Resource 1 CU
  3. Tracy Florida – CU Resources
  4. Patrick Flynn – People’s Trust
  5. Lorri Gaither – Cornerstone CU League
  6. Joel Garcia – First Class American CU
  7. Michelle Herrera – Randolph-Brooks FCU
  8. Melanie Kennedy – Southwest Financial FCU
  9. Jim Ladner – Resource 1 CU
  10. Mistie Leeds – Communication FCU
  11. Hazel Moreno – Credit Union of Texas
  12. Calvin Pham – Houston Highway CU
  13. Sandi Rogers – Houston Highway CU
  14. KaLeigh Sanders – Matagorda County CU


DE Training provides critical lessons in cooperative principles, credit union philosophy, and international development issues while incorporating challenges credit unions face today. During the recent week-long program, participants were involved in group exercises, field trips, discussions with speakers from around the credit union system, and are required to complete team projects proposing solutions for credit unions to help alleviate or eliminate challenging situations in any given area.

For this class’ final case studies, participants worked through and presented solutions to critical issues that included student loan debt, board development, and recruiting including the debate over compensation, microfinance to women in Africa, credit union solutions to predatory lending, building an Islamic banking center for Afghan Americans in Virginia, and credit union growth and increased awareness.

Remarks about the program from some of the new graduates:

Melanie Kennedy, president/CEO of Southwest Financial FCU, said, "If I could describe the program in a few words, I would say that it is amazing and life changing. It gave me the opportunity to experience the credit union difference for which I will be eternally grateful."

Cody Buchholz, Tinker Federal Credit Union's AVP/manager of financial empowerment, said, "The program, as any CUDE grad will tell you, was life changing. It amplified my understanding of the credit union philosophy, our social responsibility, and the impact we can have on humanity. It is an honor to be associated with such an elite group of change agents."

“The DE Program provided me with an incredible opportunity to fully embrace the credit union values and beliefs that our movement was founded upon," said Lorri Gaither, VP small credit union development for Cornerstone said. "You don’t just attend sessions, you experience learning through highly interactive brainstorming which opens your mind and inspires you to think beyond what you are doing today. The structure of the program is designed to encourage cooperation and mentoring among classmates to build a strong and lasting network of credit union leaders that are passionate about making a huge impact on the future of the credit union movement.”

"After attending CUDE training, I left with a sense of completeness," said Phillip Crocker, director of cultural enhancement at Resource 1 CU. “The DE Program is experiential learning that helps one understand the history and philosophy of the Credit Union Movement. The experience helps to create a brotherhood and sisterhood of like-minded individuals who are trying to change one life at a time. It’s an opportunity to have an impact on others.”

Tracy Florida, Credit Union Resource's director sales and service, said, "Having the opportunity to attend DE was an amazing experience! DE training and the knowledge shared provided an eye-opening understanding that will sustain me through my professional and personal life. From the instructors to the mentors and all of my classmates, I send a heartfelt thank you for a life-changing experience and confirmation of the ability to make a difference!"

“The CUDE Program has changed me as not only a credit union professional but also as a human being," said Michelle Herrera, community development and financial literacy specialist at Randolph-Brooks FCU. "My eyes were opened to the fact that credit unions are driven by a movement, and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend. I now know that there is power in one, but we can definitely go further together.”

Cornerstone Credit Union League CEO Dick Ensweiler said he hopes credit union CEOs make this program a priority to enhance their employees' sense of the cooperative culture and values.

"I am delighted to see this continued interest in the Development Educators Program in the Cornerstone region," Ensweiler said. "When participants come back with this enhanced knowledge of the true difference that credit unions can make, and when they grasp that we have a unique place in the financial services space, they are motivated employees and much more decisive about making credit unions their career."

More about the DE Program

Since 1982, more than 1,400 credit union advocates from over 34 countries have graduated from DE Training to become Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs). Once they earn their CUDE designation, people return to their jobs with a sense of personal enrichment and renewed energy to share what they have learned. This growing corps of credit union advocates devotes professional and volunteer time to spreading the credit union message to audiences throughout the country. For more information on the DE program, visit under “How We Help.