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The CUDE—New Cornerstone Grads Discuss Their Experience
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 6:55 AM

DE Graduating Class

As you might have seen in the recent announcement about the 46 professionals who graduated from the National Credit Union Foundation's Credit Union Development Education (DE) Training, seven were from the Cornerstone region. The training took place at the Lowell Center on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison Sept. 9-16.

The graduating seven were Adrianna Briggs, Houston Highway Credit Union; April Krause, Cornerstone Credit Union League; Crystal Long, GECU; Heather McKissick, University Federal Credit Union; Aaron Racicot, People’s Trust Credit Union; Brent Rempe, WEOKIE Credit Union; and Juan Villegas, Houston Highway Credit Union.

Here's what a few of them thought of their experience in their own words.

Crystal Long, president and CEO of GECU in El Paso, said, “I feel like I've learned more in one week of training than I learned in my entire 35-year career.”

"DE was a life-changing event," said Brent Rempe, director of education for WEOKIE Credit Union. He described DE as among his top three experiences that will be forever etched in his memory. The first was a four-day Kairos retreat while he was a junior at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, 1998, and the second was a week-long immersion mission trip to the Yakima Reservation in central Washington in 2007. Then came DE.

"I've always considered myself a mission-driven person," Rempe said. "Right out of college, I volunteered for two years with Ameri-Corps, the domestic version of the Peace Corps, to serve inner-city high school students in Portland, Oregon. Wanting to make the transition into financial services, I found myself in a credit union by accident, recruited by my manager for my position. Until last week, I've never realized that the movement is mission-driven. How serendipitous that I found myself in a movement that puts people first and desires to make a difference in the lives of others. DE makes my work at WEOKIE more fulfilling knowing I am part of something greater than myself. How fortunate I am that the credit union philosophy fits my personal philosophy so well."

“When someone asks me to describe DE, I just don’t know where to begin,” says Addie Briggs, Houston Highway FCU.  “Program is the most suitable word I can come up with but, even then, that doesn’t do it justice. To say that DE is career-changing, while true, is an understatement. DE is life-changing.”

Addie continues, “I learned a lot about the history of credit unions and why the credit union difference is so important, but I also gained a better understanding of the world around me. DE is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced in my professional and personal life. I’ve made life-long friends with these credit union pioneers that will motivate me to keep the credit union movement going. I’m incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to go at such a young age (18) and I’m excited about how I can help attract younger members to the credit union. DE helped me gain a better understanding of the world around me and gave me a little glimpse of what so many of our members struggle with.”

Heather McKissick, University FCU, shared, “I think the DE program is critical to the success of credit unions worldwide because we must continue to grow new generations of leadership in the rich traditions of the credit union movement.  The DE program is a bridge across countries and generations – connecting us through common language, structure and shared experience.”

April Krause, political and grassroots director from Cornerstone Credit Union League, said DE was life-changing for her as well. "The program opened my eyes to an array of opportunities for credit unions to grow and to help people. Not only did it impact my professional life, it also had a positive effect on my personal life. 

Krause continued, "The experience was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. The program is an immersion of the principles and philosophy of credit unions. CUNA School is the meat of credit unions, and I would say that DE is the heart of credit unions."

She said that after a couple days doing class work, they were able to go on some field trips. Her group visited a homeless shelter and VA housing, and take part in a life simulation where she played the role of an unemployed 19-year-old mother with a baby, living on WIC and food stamps. In the simulation the family couldn’t afford daycare, had difficult time paying bills and ended up getting evicted, and Krause resorted to stealing so she could feed the baby.

"I think the life simulation was impactful for everyone," Krause said about her role. "I know that probably sounds funny, but I could have easily been that person I was playing.  It scared me how real that was."

One takeaway for Krause was, "Everything starts with our credit union employees. If our employees don’t truly understand how we are different and what sets us apart from banks, how will we ever be able to share the People Helping People philosophy with our members and our surrounding communities?"

Krause closed with, "I have a new family of credit union people that I will now have for the rest of my life. Edward Filene said it best 'It’s a great movement, worthy of great deeds, deserving of great loyalty.'"

About the DE Program
The mission of the Credit Union Development Education (DE) 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.”

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”.