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United FCU Helps Arkansas Educators Combat Poor Student Performance
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 6:55 AM

121714_pic_united_fcu_educational_support_programs.jpg
Students at Cavanaugh Elementary School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, created this wall art to thank United Federal Credit Union for supporting their reading program.

United Federal Credit Union (UFCU) is supporting education in Fort Smith, Arkansas, by providing incentives for students to regularly attend class and by offering rewards to youngsters who meet reading goals.

According to Attendance Works, a national initiative that promotes better policy, practice, and research around school attendance, as many as 7.5 million students are chronically absent nationwide. That includes one in 10 kindergartners. By sixth grade, chronic absence is a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.

UFCU’s Perfect Attendance Program, in its third year, helps cut down those statistics. It is active in six elementary schools in and near Fort Smith: Bonneville Elementary, Cavanaugh Elementary, Christ the King Elementary, Cook Elementary, Hackett Elementary, Immaculate Conception Elementary, and St. Boniface Elementary.

At the end of each quarter of the school year, students with perfect attendance, including not being tardy or leaving school early, are invited to reach into a bowl and grab a fistful of coins, which they are allowed to keep. Those who complete the entire year with perfect attendance are eligible for a drawing for an iPad. Each of the seven schools will have a winner.

“The first step toward getting a good education is to go to class,” explained UFCU Marketing VP Noel Sanger. “With attendance as the number one problem facing our schools, we have found a way to encourage students to attend—all day, every school day—and it has made a difference.”

Immaculate Conception Catholic School Principal Sharon Blentlinger said the Perfect Attendance program has cut down on the number of students who are late for school as well as the number who leave before being officially dismissed.

“Parents tell me their children do not want to be picked up early for dental appointments, for example, because they will lose their eligibility for the Perfect Attendance program,” Blentlinger said. “We stress that good leaders complete their responsibilities before doing other activities. Perfect Attendance encourages students to complete the day, which benefits the entire class because instructional activity is disrupted when an individual student is coming or going during class time.”

UFCU is also assisting Fort Smith schools with their early reader initiative. According to educators, another early predictor of whether or not a student will graduate on time is how close they are to reading at grade level by third grade. UFCU supports a reading program for students in kindergarten through second grade who are required to achieve state-imposed reading goals. Each quarter of the school year, the students who meet their goals are recognized at a school assembly with a certificate and a new book provided by UFCU.

“You would not believe how excited these kids are about receiving a book,” says UFCU Member Service Advisor Katie Ellis who volunteers to help with the reading program at Cavanaugh Elementary. “They recently thanked us by creating a Rainbow Reading Stars Tree in a hallway and placing the UFCU logo prominently in the center.” 

Educators say being able to read at grade level by third grade also is an indicator of the likelihood of success in college. UFCU will continue to support schools in Arkansas through these two programs and with other initiatives, both currently underway and planned, for the future. The credit union believes that investing in the development of future leaders today will pay big dividends tomorrow in terms of the well good of the community.

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United Federal Credit Union has served its members since 1949 by helping them build a sound financial future. UFCU consists of more than 130,000 member/owners worldwide and manages assets in excess of $1.83 billion. Its corporate offices and main branch are located in St. Joseph, Michigan, with additional branches in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Ohio.