Credit union steps up to help fund Kelowna-based financial literacy program

Valley first pledges $50,000 to expand the CANsave program, developed by Okanagan Business School students.

Officials from Valley First and First West Credit Union

CANsave, a financial literacy program designed in 2015 by college students for primary school students has caught the attention of teachers throughout British Columbia, and now  B.C. redit union is stepping up to lend its support.

A supporter of CANsave since its pilot program launched in 2015, Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, initially pledged $25,000 to the program for the 2016 school year.

But seeing the immediate success and the overwhelming teacher demand for the program, the credit union has doubled its support to $50,000 to help Enactus Okanagan College students expand the program to more B.C. schools.

In addition to this financial support, Valley First says it will be lending its expertise in the field, and staff will be volunteering as guest instructors in some of the local classrooms. Aimed at teaching primary school students critical lessons about debt and the importance of saving money, and giving to charity, CANsave offers students the opportunity to experience financial responsibility firsthand.

“This is an incredible commitment,” said Abbey Jones, a fourth-year Okanagan College business administration student, who is also one of the leaders of the CANsave program. “Valley First has been with us every step of the way since we launched our pilot program last year.”

She said the latest donation will allow the program to reach out to all the teachers and schools who have expressed an interest in it.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for us to expand the program and enable more kids to learn about financial literacy,” said Jones.

“We’ve all heard about the importance of teaching kids at a young age about money in order to set them up for financial success in the future,” said Susan Ewanick, president of Valley First.

“Our team at Valley First fully believes in the benefits of starting young and it’s been so rewarding to see the tremendous outcomes CANsave has achieved in one short year. The rapid pace at which B.C. teachers are adopting the program has been nothing short of amazing. We’re very proud to partner with the volunteers of Enactus and have the opportunity to help young people develop their financial savvy.”

The positive evaluation of the program is echoed by Kelsey Dawson, one of the teachers who experienced CANsave in her Grade 3 classroom last year.

“It had a real impact on the students,” said Dawson. “It’s learning that will stick with them through their lives and it’s provided a good base in understanding personal and household finances. It also gave them a sense of what it means to think about others in the community.”

With help from Valley First and from the Central Okanagan Foundation, the Enactus OC students established a website over the summer that introduced the CANsave program to approximately 40 Central Okanagan teachers just before school recommenced this fall.

“Within three days, we were already exceeding the 40 classes we had planned,” said Devin Rubadeau, an OC business administration professor who has served as a mentor to the Enactus OC students involved in the project.

“Somewhere between 10 and 15 of them are from outside the college region, extending into the Kootenays and Northern B.C. Now we are projecting that CANsave will be in 100 or more Central Okanagan classes this year.”

He noted November is financial literacy month.

CANsave was introduced into classrooms in School District 23, in 2015, and was created in response to changes in the B.C. Ministry of Education curriculum that came into effect this past September. The program includes lessons on topics young adults wished they had learned early on, including the advantages of having a savings account, critical lessons about debt, and the importance of saving money for themselves and for those in need. Teaching fundamental financial lessons through the use of a simulated economy, CANsave allows primary school students the opportunity to experience first-hand financial responsibility.

During the curriculum development period for Grade 3 students, the Enactus team worked closely with teachers and community partners to ensure learning objectives could successfully be met in the classroom. In the spring of 2016, two Grade 1 teachers modified the curriculum to suit younger grades and ran the program twice in their classrooms with great success. The end results are the CANsave Early Primary and CANsave Late Primary programs.

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