Redwood CU's Day of Impact

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Redwood CU's Day of Impact resulted in 3,000 high school students reached through the RMJ Foundation's Bite of Reality program.

While many credit unions were closed for the federal holiday on October 14, some used it as a day of service, coordinating various community outreach efforts. But Redwood CU took it a little further:  it sent all 700 of its employees out to teach practical financial skills to approximately 3,000 high school students across three North Bay counties.

The credit union used the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation program, Bite of Reality, which it has presented to local high school students since 2013, but never at such a large scale. Redwood sent its workforce to 15 schools in Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties (see below for list of schools). Students learned how to budget for and manage the costs of securing necessities like housing and childcare—a litany of responsibilities colloquially referred to as “adulting.”


L-R: California State Senator Mike McGuire, Congressman Jared Huffman, Marin County Superintendent Schools Mary Jane Burke, and Redwood CU CEO Brett Martinez at San Rafael High School


In Bite of Reality, students receive a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments. They then visit various table-top stations to “purchase” housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, day care, and other essentials. The game also includes a credit union station to help with their financial needs if they overspend.

California State Congressman Mike Thompson attended events in Napa while state Congressman Jared Huffman and Senator Mike McGuire attended events in San Rafael.


California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues Advocacy Specialist Emily Udell, Redwood CU VP of Member Experience Deirdre Thompson, SVP of Community & Government Relations Matt Martin, Congressman Mike Thompson, Redwood CU Chief Information Officer Tony Hildesheim, and Chief Financial & Risk Office Ron Felder at Napa High School


According to RMJ Foundation Executive Director Tena Lozano, it was the largest one-day event in California. BECU in Washington state held a similar event that reached 7,000 kids on Monday.

“We’re thrilled that Redwood Credit Union chose to use the Bite of Reality program to make such a huge impact in the communities it serves,” Lozano said. “Every teenager should be exposed to this kind of education, and it’s fantastic that Redwood reached so many of them in one day.”

“We believe money management is an essential life skill for young people to learn,” said Redwood CU President and CEO Brett Martinez. “However, because it’s not a graduation requirement, financial education differs greatly between schools. The Bite of Reality program helps fill in gaps, giving teens an eye-opening introduction to the everyday money challenges they will face as adults, and to navigating those financial decisions wisely.”


Redwood CU Regional VP Amy Ahanotu helps San Rafael High students purchase entertainment options at the credit Union’s Day of Impact Bite of Reality event.


Participating Sonoma County schools: Cloverdale High School, Elsie Allen High School, Maria Carrillo High School, North Met Academy, Piner High School, Ridgway High School, Sonoma Valley High School, and Windsor High School.  Participating Napa County schools: American Canyon High School, Napa High School, and Valley Oak High School. Participating Marin County schools: San Marin High School, San Rafael High School, Tomales High School, and Novato High School.

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