Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, the largest not-for-profit membership-based financial institution in the State of Arizona, was recently awarded the 2013 Credit Union Impact Award from the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation. The award was given to recognize a credit union program that has positively affected the community and the Arizona, Colorado or Wyoming credit union movement.
Desert Schools was recognized for its partnership with the Balsz Community in Phoenix, which has directed more than $250,000 in grant funds, countless volunteer hours and in-kind resources and donations to support the community. The credit union first began its work with Balsz Elementary School over five years ago and has since expanded to include the surrounding community.
“Community giving is a core value at Desert Schools. The work we do in the community truly feeds my soul. I am proud to be part of an organization and an industry that walks the walk when it comes to giving back to the communities we call home,” said Susan Franks, president of Desert Schools. “Working as closely as we have with Balsz Elementary School has given us even more opportunities to give back – donating school supplies, providing grant funding, and teaching financial literacy education to students, teachers, and parents. As an organization, we feel incredibly honored to continue working with Balsz and the community and hope to continue making a positive impact on this community for years to come.”
Balsz Elementary School and its surrounding community are ethnically and linguistically diverse – with nearly half of its students having limited English proficiency. As well, the majority of the students’ household income is well below the poverty level. With so many students in need, Desert Schools has expanded its outreach to not only include an annual school supply drive but an Adopt-A-Classroom program to celebrate the season with students during the holidays, continued financial literacy education throughout the year, and grant funding for additional instructor resources.
One of those additional resources was a Playworks instructor for the 2012-2013 school year to help with behavioral issues. Balsz was experiencing student behavioral problems during recess, which were leading to issues with students and staff; Playworks’ mission is to utilize meaningful play and exercise to help children learn. By designing a structure for recess, Playworks turns recess into a productive and cooperative time for students. Schools that implement Playworks games and activities into recess see a decrease in bullying, an improvement in overall school climate, a reduction in disciplinary incidents, and more participation in academics.
Desert Schools has teamed up with The Valley of the Sun United Way to make more long-term improvement by implementing a new program called the Balsz Promise Neighborhood to promote academic success amongst Balsz students. The program provides resources and encouragement to help students successfully complete high school and transition to college or the work force.
Desert Schools has built its foundation on a passion for taking an active role in the community by giving back and advocating for positive change. Now approaching its milestone 75th anniversary year, the organization actively strives to help individuals and their families throughout the Valley achieve a better quality of life through a variety of community enrichment programs.
The credit union remained committed to giving back financially in 2012 and coordinated fundraising efforts with employees, vendors and partners to give back more than $900,000 to the community, raising $395,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, $244,000 for the United Way and $118,000 in community grants last year.
The credit union recently announced crossing the $2 million milestone in cumulative donations to benefit the 1 Darn Cool School Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Miracle Network.