Written by Shayndel Valles
Photo by Shayndel Valles
On Wednesday, July 19, Elgin Community College hosted the grand opening for its new Center for Financial Empowerment & Wellness, located inside of the Library in Building C. It’s home to the newest and first-ever KCT Credit Union branch located on a college campus.
“It’s a collaboration that’s been in the works for about eight years,” said Branch Manager Valerie Gideon. “[Our goal] was to bring financial education and financial services to the college students and the faculty.”
The new Center is the result of years of work between KCT Credit Union President Michael Lee and ECC President Dr. Sam. Members can open and close accounts, process loans and receive financial counseling at the ninth branch in the system.
“We are here to answer any questions you have,” said Gideon. ‘We want to hear them and we’ll be willing to answer them and find the answer if we don’t have it.”
With over 20 years of experience in finance and human resources, Gideon helps students get a strong financial foundation by teaching them how to manage their accounts, the importance of doing it correctly and the long-term impact it can have.
“We’re friendly and we’re not intimidating,” said Gideon. “Let’s say [someone] maybe made some mistakes; we’re here to help them get back on track.”
Eligible new members can qualify for a $5 deposit to be put into their savings account when they open a checking account with a debit card. Members can support ECC students by setting up either a Spartan or Academic Affinity Visa Debit Card and give back to athletics or the ECC Foundation with every purchase.
Member Service Specialist Gabriela Rango recommends getting a Secured Credit Card, which can help users establish or rebuild their credit history. 
“[KCTCU] helped me build my credit,” said Rango. “What a credit union can offer you is a safe environment for you to do your financing and call home financially.”
Rango understands where students might be and is more than willing to help improve their financial literacy.
“I know where [students] are at, I was right there a year ago. I didn’t even know what a savings or a checking account was or terms like deposit or withdrawal [when I started],” said Rango. “Being able to help them is one of the best things.”
Like many first-time members, Rango had a minimal amount of financial knowledge when she began working for KCT Credit Union.
“When I started, I knew nothing,” said Rango. “They did hire me without experience so I’m really grateful for them giving me that opportunity.”
Now, Rango’s position entails being a loan officer, teller and supervisor. She’s interested in attending classes at ECC and pursuing a degree in business in the future.
“I really like customer service and I really love my job,” said Rango. “Right now I am interested in being a branch manager or possibly a financial advisor.”
Second-year ECC student and staff member Isabela Almanza enjoys helping others and has been working at KCT Credit Union for about a year and a half.
“I was just trying to find something that was a little more stable and something that can make me more aware of financing,” said Almanza. 
Since then, Almanza went from a business major to a teaching major and is now looking to become an elementary school teacher. She’s also been able to improve her financial knowledge throughout her time working.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot more on how to manage my money,” said Almanza. “I definitely think I built my literacy in finance, kind of just knowing more terms and what to look for when getting credit cards or loans.”
Almanza encourages students to stop in and learn more about how to manage their money and what to look for in their finances.
“It’s good to have people be educated,” said Almanza. “It’s just good to have somewhere where you can rely on and trust for your finances and I definitely think we offer a lot of help to our members.”
KCT Credit Union hosts monthly seminars around Elgin surrounding topics like building a basic budget and how to build credit. The new Center hopes to host future seminars on the ECC campus for students and faculty members.
More information about the new Center for Financial Empowerment and Wellness can be found at https://www.kctcu.org/About/Affinity-Programs/Elgin-Community-College.aspx#overview.

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