Enthusiasm comes naturally to Jenni Paramore, community outreach education coordinator for Directions Credit Union, Mansfield, Ohio.
That enthusiasm has been a boon to financial education in northern and central Ohio—a primary goal in Directions’ strategic plan for more than five years.
“Our business development department was given the task of becoming the No. 1 source for financial education in our communities,” says Paramore. “I’m pleased to say that has happened.”
Last year, Paramore logged a total of 255 outreach hours, reaching almost 6,500 people.
Venues for financial education include churches, shelters, public and private schools, libraries, prisons, and juvenile detention centers. Directions’ programs also target college freshman as well as nontraditional student programs. Select employee groups receive customized “lunch and learn” presentations.
“My job is to develop and present financial tools so people can make wiser, more informed financial decisions,” says Paramore. “We make these classes available to anyone who asks.”
Initially, management used incentives to get frontline staff to track new accounts gained through community outreach. Now the leadership team is working to develop an ongoing program to track results.
Some of the program results come back to Paramore as anecdotes, which she calls “the experiences that thrill me.”
After attending an eightweek money management program at Richland Correctional Institution, one of the offenders told Paramore that because of what he learned about finances, after his release he and his wife decided to get on a budget that would allow them to pay off their debt, repair their credit, and prevent bankruptcy.
“Another time, while at lunch, I noticed that the waitress was using a Directions Credit Union pen. I commented on it, and she told me that her son had recently completed the Reality Store program for eighth-graders. In one class, he learned to balance a checkbook register and reconcile a statement.
“When I called the branch to ask about the young man’s experience, I was told that he asked all of the questions that we discuss with the students. He had learned one of our most important lessons—‘Don’t sign your name to anything you don’t understand, so ask questions!’
“My hope is that I help my communities to be better, smarter communities—the kind of place where people want to live and grow,” says Paramore.
As for who she’d be if she were a big-name Rock Star? “Bob Dylan, because of his social commentary.”