NCUF Grantee Helps Native American High Schoolers Manage Money with ‘Crazy Cash City’ Fair

A Foundation Grant at Work

Gallup, N.M. – Around 200 teens in Gallup, N.M. recently got a taste of money management by attending the unique “Crazy Cash City” money-spending simulation on October 9-11, 2012. The event was hosted by First Financial Credit Union in partnership with First Nations Development Institute for local high school students, the majority of whom are Native American.  The exercise – which was a test of a new pilot program – was intended as an experiential learning opportunity for students taking a financial literacy class this semester.

First Financial Credit Union received a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) to help provide funding for the event and local businesses and organizations provided volunteers to help staff the simulation. The credit union, working with First Nations Development Institute, adapted Credit Union National Association’s Mad City Money curriculum to make it suitable for a Native American audience by making changes such as updating the profile cards to reflect tribal employment, having photos of Native American individuals, and adding unique tribal revenue such as tribal dividend payments. They also updated the curriculum to work with a simulated debit card purchasing system.

“At the National Credit Union Foundation, we’ve found experiential learning activities such as First Financial CU’s simulation and Reality Fairs to be a resounding success,” said Christopher Morris, NCUF Director of Communications. “First Financial Credit Union’s pilot simulation is also a great example of making financial education engaging and relevant to your community.”

The purpose of “Crazy Cash City” was to give high school students the opportunity to practice good spending and budgeting habits prior to entering the “real world” after graduation.  First Financial CU’s goal was to promote smart and informed decisions that will last a lifetime, which is crucial to Native American communities. Learning how to manage finances ensures that Native people will be more likely to save and to challenge financial service providers to develop products that respond to their particular needs.

“Crazy Cash City” was held at the Rio West Mall in Gallup, N.M. and consisted of six two-hour reality fairs in which the students had to navigate a series of simulated financial tasks and challenges designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills. The event was presented as a fun simulation to the students – since they were spending play money and not really buying things – but it was also informative and highly interactive.

“[The event] helped me prepare for life in the real world,” said one attendee. “It was really fun!”

All simulation participants were given a folder containing a fictitious family profile that listed what their income was, the income of a spouse, the age of any children, and any outstanding debt or benefits they received.  The high school students then visited about ten booths that provided various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and they were asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile.  At the conclusion of the seminar, the students were expected to have a fully balanced budget that they logged in their check register and budgeting sheet.

“We could lecture for two hours about budgeting, but experiential learning gives students a chance to actually live out what they will face in the future,” said Michael E. Roberts, President of First Nations. Shawn Spruce, First Nations’ financial education consultant, added: “They interact, laugh, learn and have a lot of fun, and it’s much livelier than a regular classroom. Many of these students are currently taking a financial education course, too, so this seminar enables them to put what they have learned into practice.”

Since it was a pilot project, First Financial CU and First Nations collected feedback from participants to conduct an evaluation of the simulation model.  They will be compiling the data and writing a report to address strengths and weaknesses of the program, enabling First Nations to improve the model for possible use at more schools.

A Foundation Grant at Work
NCUF grants are made possible by supporters of the Foundation and the Community Investment Fund (CIF), an award-winning system of investments that help credit unions earn dividends while donating to national and state community development programs.

This “Grant at Work” is part of a series highlighting NCUF grantees making a positive impact in their community and empowering consumers to achieve financial freedom through credit unions.

About the National Credit Union Foundation (
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker, working to help consumers achieve financial freedom through credit unions. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.

NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Corporate Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual.  All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make financial freedom achievable through credit unions.

The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.

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