Students can learn and earn in FOCUSS credit union contest at UWM

Students interested in making a positive change in underserved communities, while possibly making some change for themselves (prize amounts range from $1,000 to $100), have until Friday, March 16, to craft an original proposal for a credit union that serves a community of multigenerational, multicultural, multiracial consumers.

Their ideas will be evaluated and then presented before a panel of judges on Tuesday, March 27. Called the FOCUSS competition, this national contest is making its UW-Milwaukee debut under the sponsorship of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.

UWM associate professor and FOCUSS ambassador David Pate says that students should feel inspired by the competition’s challenge.

“FOCUSS is here to offer students the opportunity to share ideas and cultivate solutions to real-world problems,” said Pate. “Many Americans, consumers of color and people living in lower income communities in particular, don’t have convenient access to financial institutions. Big banks may charge higher fees than credit unions and be located far away from the people who need them the most. Neighborhood credit unions are a solution, but we need ideas from everywhere on how to structure this. College students are known for their creativity and ingenuity. So FOCUSS is asking them for ideas.”

Students can work on their proposals on an individual or group basis. FOCUSS proposal teams can include up to four people.

“This is about creative solutions to problems,” Pate said. “Students in any major have something to contribute to the conversation.”

Proposals must be submitted by March 16. Participants will be invited to present their ideas before a panel of judges on March 27, in UWM’s School of Architecture & Urban Planning. Students selected to advance to the national competition will travel to Madison April 25-27, where CUNA Mutual hosts the final competition. Prizes at the national level range from $5,000 to $1,000.

For complete details, contact information and resource materials, FOCUSS can be found online.

FOCUSS stands for Framework for Opportunity Convergence and the Utilization of Sustainable Solutions. It is a nonprofit organization created to assist American ethnic minorities, women, veterans, and members of the LGBT community to discover sustainable solutions that will benefit society.

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