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Dranesville Celebrates First Business Partnership

Students celebrate partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union in assembly.

Dranesville Elementary School students are going to learn a lot more about finances in the years to come thanks to the school's recent business partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union.

"We want to make sure the younger generation understands what this world is all about," said Juri Valdov, president and CEO of Northwest Federal Credit Union. "A lot of what the world is about is money."

ON NOV. 10, 700 students, grades two through six, filled the Dranesville gym for the kickoff of the school's first ever business partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union.

As a part of the assembly the students performed numerous songs for the guests that included employees from the credit union as well as Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale and Dranesville School Board Member Jane Strauss.

"We are particularly honored that so many special people took the time out of their busy schedules to be here," said Dranesville principal, Lucinda Romberg. "The business partnership is particularly important so our business community can know first hand all the things the schools are doing. And it's important for the children to see adults in the greater community working."

NORTHWEST FEDERAL CREDIT Union has 300 employees which represent about 70,000 members, said Valdov during the assembly. He added as a part of the partnership five different employees from the Herndon branch will visit the school every week to work with students on financial reading exercises.

"This is very meaningful for us," said Valdov after the assembly. "Finances are becoming a bigger and bigger deal as the world gets more complicated."

Because of this increasing importance, Valdov said the company has found that it needs to begin working with children at the "core level," or an age where they can still be reached.

"The financial education program almost needs to start at the elementary-school level and build from there," he said. "We have found that once you get to the high-school level it's too late and once you get to the college level it's way too late."

Although last week's event was the official kick-off of the partnership, Valdov said the year before his company had sponsored an after-school homework program for the school that included everything from providing buses to snacks.

But, he added, his business isn't the only one giving.

AS A PART of the partnership, artwork created by the various students is temporarily donated to the Herndon branch to be hung in the office.

"Our staff is so happy, they really enjoy reading with the kids," said Barbara D'Andrade, outreach manager for the credit union, adding employees aren't the only ones who enjoy the artwork. "The members love it, we've had people who want to buy it."

Valdov said although the children are the main focus of the partnership, the credit union is also trying to reach out to teachers.

"We're looking at having teachers work during the summer who want to supplement their income," he said adding they are also looking at extra equipment they have to give the school. "We think of ourselves as dream builders, we teach about how to deal with saving and lending money — really the whole business of financial management."

Romberg added the partnership is a good fit because it is never too early for children to learn about finances.

"We both feel that starting to build financial literary skills in children really early is so important," she said. "The sooner you help them learn about finances, it will help pay off in the long run."