Young Professionals Make A Big ‘Crash’ at GAC

The Cooperative Trust’s 2014 ‘Crash the GAC’ is the group’s biggest yet.

February 24, 2014

The fifth edition of “Crash the GAC” is bigger and better.

A record number of young credit union professionals from across the country are participating in this year’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C.

“It is the biggest crash we have ever done,” said Cooperative Trust Leader James Marshall.

The Cooperative Trust and CUNA partnered with state leagues to encourage and select young credit union leaders to attend. Last year Crash the GAC had 19 participants; this year participation surpassed 40 people.

Marshall, who also attended last year’s crash, said he is excited about the diversity of young professionals at the 2014 version.

“To have someone from all of these different places is really great,” Marshall said. “And it is great to see them all interact.”

Crash the GAC gives young credit union professionals the chance to attend exclusive speaker sessions as well as experience GAC's core events, like hiking the hill to advocate for credit union legislative priorities.

Being a crasher is “really” exciting for Whitney Thompson, a sales and service coordinator with ANECA FCU in Shreveport, La.

“To participate on this level is something I have always wanted to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson said she is looking forward to networking and advocating for credit unions on Capitol Hill.

Advocacy is also an emphasis for crasher Nick Fugal, CFO of IDADIV CU in Nampa, Idaho. Fugal said his credit union serves many low-income members and the credit union tax-exemption is critical.

“We need to keep that tax status and we can keep helping people,” Fugal said.

In addition to networking and advocacy—as well as a “great party” thrown by the crashers called “Thunderpunch”—the Crash the GAC program is about activating the movement’s future.

LaTesha Wheeler, an assistant branch manager at DC FCU in Washington, D.C., said she is excited to learn and grow and let people know that “young people are here” and “here to stay.”

“It is great to be around people who are passionate about the credit union movement,” said Wheeler.

Chris Wolgamott, senior financial counselor at Meritrust Credit Union in Wichita, Kan., is back at the GAC after first attending as a Crasher three years ago.

That experience intensified his desire to become a leader in the movement, and since then he has taken a promotion, become more involved with CUNA and the Kansas Credit Union Association, taken better advantage of CUNA training opportunities, collaborated on projects with members of his Crashers class, and taken a more active role in political advocacy.

"The Crashers were an amazing group to be a part of," says Wolgamott, who earned CUNA Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) designation and is a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE).

"First and foremost, the program allowed me to meet people in the credit union world that were young professionals. It gave me a chance to meet a lot of high-up credit union people that you wouldn’t normally get to talk with, and ask questions of. It allowed me to work on some projects with other people around the country, and it really got me more politically involved in the credit union process."

You can follow the crashers on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #CrashtheGAC14.