It’s no coincidence the annual Partners in Education Celebration takes place in the middle of National Financial Literacy Month, and it’s no surprise that the Philadelphia region’s premier education recognition event is organized by a credit union. Remarkable is the extent to which one credit union’s local efforts extend nationally and globally.
Spearheaded and primarily funded by Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, Partners in Education Foundation is a non-profit consortium of businesses and individuals that supports various education and financial literacy programs. Each year, the Foundation holds a Celebration to recognize academic achievement, awarding more than $54,000 and 300 trophies, plaques, and certificates to deserving students, teachers, schools, and education advocates. Some 600 people, including business leaders and dignitaries, attended the 2018 Partners in Education Celebration held April 19 just outside Philadelphia, Pa.
Recognition of the 2018 Financial Literacy Advocate of the Year Gigi Hyland brought national attention to the event. As the Executive Director of the National Credit Union Foundation, Hyland is a respected supporter of education, particularly financial literacy. Under her auspices, the Foundation began supporting the popular Biz Kid$ program and TV series, which teaches 9 to 16-year-olds about money and life skills. She also serves on the advisory board of The Berenstain Bears Financial Literacy Program, which was originally commissioned by FMFCU. Hyland is known for inspiring collaboration to improve outreach efforts within the credit union movement.
While the night was full of recognitions, special attention to the 70th anniversary of the nation’s oldest, continuous academic competition was also notable. Delco Hi-Q, a rigorous academic competition involving 21 high school teams in densely populated Delaware County, Pennsylvania, began in 1948 as a radio quiz show. It evolved to an in-school competition during the early years and spread across the country. Hi-Q continues to thrive in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Washington.
Film and stage actor Tom McCarthy was recognized for serving 39 years as Quizmaster. After four decades as the face of Hi-Q, McCarthy retired just before the start of the milestone 70th season. Quizmaster was among McCarthy’s favorite roles because he enjoyed working with the students, who found him equally endearing. McCarthy’s other professional credits include roles in major motion pictures with actors such as John Travolta, Denzel Washington, and Robert Redford to a recurring role in one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows, HBO’s The Wire. The Philadelphia native has won numerous awards, including Lifetime Achievement from the Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia and the prestigious Barrymore Award.
Recognizing the value Delco Hi-Q brought to high school academics and to the community at large, former FMFCU CEO John D. Unangst committed funding and managerial support to Delco Hi-Q a dozen or so years ago when the program was in need of sponsorship. Seeing the commitment as a natural progression of his CU’s mission to lead with education, Unangst also initiated the Partners in Education Celebration to honor all participating schools, securing Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek as the first guest speaker. For his efforts, Unangst, who passed away suddenly earlier this year, was posthumously inducted into the Delco Hi-Q Hall of Honor—a distinction he initiated in 2005 to honor distinguished past Hi-Q participants and those who made outstanding contributions to the program.
Also inducted into the Delco Hi-Q Hall of Honor was longtime media and sports industry executive Thomas E. Spock, who played on his high school’s Hi-Q team in the early to mid-‘70s. Spock is a founding partner of Scalar Media Partners and former executive at NFL Enterprises.
The Partners in Education Celebration also saluted 19 educators, who received the Delco Excellence in Teaching Award, the Outstanding Student Leader of the Year, and eleven scholarship winners. Behind the scenes, the personal connection of a scholarship winner’s family to Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union epitomized the mission of both the Credit Union and its Partners in Education Foundation. The mother of scholarship recipient Kristina McGee revealed to FMFCU staff that the Credit Union loaned her the money 18 years earlier to travel to China to adopt her daughter. Full of gratitude and pride, Sharon McGee said she had been a FMFCU member for more than two decades and was not aware of the magnitude of the Partners in Education Celebration until attending with her daughter. McGee’s sentiments echoed throughout the gala, where the crowd cheered academic accomplishment much like fans at a professional sport’s arena.
FMFCU Partners in Education is a 501(c)(3) organization whose primary mission is to collect and distribute funds that support education as well as the implementation of financial literacy and youth initiatives in communities served by FMFCU.