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Texas State Board of Ed Recognizes Employers for Education Excellence: Complex Community FCU and Smart Financial CU
Friday, October 31, 2014 6:55 AM

The Texas State Board of Education last week recognized two Cornerstone credit unions with the Employers for Education Excellence award:  Complex Community Federal Credit Union in Odessa, Texas, and Smart Financial Credit Union in Houston, Texas.

The award was established in 2007 by the Texas Legislature to honor Texas employers who encourage and support staff participation and voluntarism in the public schools and is given in three categories: gold, silver, and bronze. For the 2014 award, six companies received a gold award, three received a silver award and one company received a bronze award.

Complex Community Federal Credit Union

Complex Community FCU was selected as a Gold award recipient. Since 2008, Complex Community has actively supported the Ector County ISD. Company employees have participated in many of the district's projects and programs and provided support to the Education Foundation of Odessa.

The credit union has been a major supporter of, and instrumental in the success of, the program Advancement Via Individual Determination in many different ways. That support includes providing an annual motivation speaker, teaching financial literacy planning sessions, and providing teacher supply scholarships along with other activities. Credit union staffers have taught, in total, more than 2,700 hours to 4,900 ECISD students in the areas of financial lending, budgeting, delayed gratification, check writing, savings and investments, FAFSA, and setting college goals.

"Making a difference in the lives of our future leaders is a part of our strategic plan," said Complex Community President and CEO Jason Berridge. "It is an honor to have our commitment recognized in such a big way."

"The commitment starts at the top with our CEO and goes through the ranks," said Complex Community SVP CU Development and HR Lisa Wyman. "To date, we have over 20 staff members that share their time in the classroom.  We take our responsibilities to the community seriously."

Smart Financial Credit Union

Smart Financial CU won in the Silver award category. Smart Financial encourages and supports staff participation in the many community service activities in the Houston area. Employees are encouraged to participate in programs that will improve the quality of life for the community at large, including programs within the Houston ISD and its campuses. Through creating effective partnership events, initiatives, volunteer opportunities, financial and in-kind donations, the company believes it has positively impacted student achievement.

In one example, students at Lamar High School, through a student-run branch of the credit union, are able to learn firsthand about saving and managing money, balancing checkbooks, and budgeting. The Smart Financial Credit Union Lamar Branch is managed by a full-time employee of Smart Financial but is operated by students of Lamar High. This branch is completely equipped to handle the financial needs of students and staff.

"The students are learning first-hand about the financial life skills needed to carry them through the next phase of their lives," reports Gloria Gatlin, AVP business development for Smart Financial. "Once a year, we conduct a real-life simulation called Mad City Money. This experience allows students to reevaluate their financial choices and helps them to manage their money effectively."

Smart Financial has initiated a Student Advisory Board on the campus of Lamar High as well. "We encourage the students to provide feedback regarding their current financial needs, as well their views of their financial institution of the future," Gatlin said. "They are also encouraged to get their fellow students involved and informed about their on-campus credit union. We are very proud that most of the students who have graduated from our student-run branch have become employees of Smart Financial Credit Union, while continuing their education."

In addition, the company participated in the Houston ISD's Back-to-School Fest, impacting all 295 Houston ISD campuses, its more than 200,000 students, and 15,000-plus teachers and staff members.

Smart Financial’s policy recognizes the importance of building positive relationships within the community.  In conjunction with the Smart Financial Foundation, the credit union has created many ways for employees to donate time and money to educational causes. "This shows our educational partners that we are more than just a vendor; we are a partner that cares about their initiatives," Gatlin noted. "As a result, we help existing community service organizations implement and continue programs and projects that will improve the quality of life for the community at large."

"We are extremely proud of this award," said Smart Financial CEO Gary Tuma. "It means that our support of service agencies, organizations, educational institutions, and the communities encourages us to continue to give back. Our mission statement is To provide superior service to every member. Smart Financial Credit Union looks forward to continuing this mission."

Barbara Cargill, chair of the State Board of Education, congratulated and thanked these businesses on being named Employers for Education Excellence. "Each is to be commended for the valuable support and many resources they and their employees provide to our Texas public schools," she said.

Any Texas employer is eligible to win the award, including private companies, nonprofit organizations, and state, local, federal and educational entities. Recognized businesses receive a plaque and the EEE designation is recognized for three years.