a HEAD START with CRA
Brian Scrip, CRA Officer, Westamerica Bank
The thing that keeps CRA interesting is that one
project often uncovers another opportunity that leads to another project.
Westamerica Bank discovered this when a simple plan to expand our financial
literacy training for adults (How to Budget Your Money and Save)
led to the opportunity to promote computer training for children.
Financial literacy has always been a core value of
Westamerica Bank. We developed custom financial literacy training materials
and used them to sponsor community seminars for many years. However, the
bank was at a point where we wanted to take this training to a larger
audience. We began the search for a new partner; an organization that
offered a valuable service in the community, with a successful track record
and strong grassroots support. We learned about Head Start and it seemed
to be the perfect opportunity.
Head Start agencies have a mission to help provide
learning skills to children of low-income families, to emphasize early
childhood health and to provide social services to Head Start families.
We felt Head Start families would really benefit from financial literacy
training so it seemed like a natural fit to us.
Initially, it was difficult to convince Head Start
that a bank wanted to help. At my first meeting with Edward Condon, executive
director of the California Head Start Association, he was perplexed about
why someone from a bank was sitting in his office offering to provide
free basic budget training. This was not something he typically heard
from bankers, but it wasn't long before he realized it made sense. Head
Start families face immense financial hurdles. Raising a child is expensive
anywhere, but raising a child in California with high costs for housing,
food, vehicles and child care can be daunting.
After our meeting it was decided. Westamerica Bank
would attend the next Head Start state conference, set up a booth to display
our basic budgeting curriculum, teach three breakout sessions on budgeting,
and offer to teach additional Basic Budgeting seminars with any Head Start
agency that expressed interest. The response overwhelmed us. Our supply
of handouts disappeared the first day of the three-day conference and
we had to put out a call for a new supply by express mail. Plus, all three
basic budgeting sessions had overflow crowds.
We learned a lot from the conference. For instance,
in the budgeting sessions, we learned that families are really struggling
with budgeting. We learned that budgeting is much more that just balancing
a checkbook and opening a savings account; it has a lot to do with controlling
the expenses of everyday life and the pressures to spend. We learned that
budgeting success is essential to the stability and welfare of families,
and that managing money successfully is crucial to success in America.
Now, when we teach any budgeting seminar we display a large poster that
reads: "Money doesn't come with instructions (see
Head Start also taught us an important lesson about
early childhood education, which eventually steered Westamerica into a
new CRA direction. We learned from Head Start that a child's early school
success has a direct correlation on their future success in school and
as an adult. If a child from a low-income family is to compete successfully
in society, the child needs to be given basic educational tools. Head
Start has an amazingly successful record in giving children these tools.
According to studies:
- One-third more at-risk children who attended a
quality early childhood program graduate from high school than those
who did not attend
- Children at-risk who have been enrolled in a quality
early childhood program are 25 percent less likely to be retained a
- In a study comparing matched groups of low-income
children attending Head Start, other preschool or no preschool, the
Head Start children scored higher on school readiness measures
- As adults, those who attended a quality
early childhood program are three times as likely to be homeowners by
These statistics made it obvious to us that we could
make a significant and long-lasting difference in our communities by doing
more. We felt we could be of direct help to the children by providing
them with educational materials. In discussions and brainstorming with
Head Start management, we formed the commitment to help increase the children's'
computer, reading and math skills through interactive software programs.
We bought 25 computers and installed in each the highly-rated educational
software programs "Reader Rabbit" and "Math Blaster."
We asked Ed Condon to distribute the computers to various Head Start agencies
throughout our service area. It worked great. The children had fun with
the interactive educational games and the bank realized its investment
was a tangible contribution to the success of at-risk children in our
Through our experience with Head Start, Westamerica
Bank discovered that helping our communities is an on-going process. It
means always looking for new and more effective tools. Effectiveness in
CRA means finding new ideas that lead to better approaches. The process
never ends. Head Start is wonderful organization and now we ask ourselves
where do we go from here?
To learn more about the partnership between Head
Start and Westamerica Bank, email Ed
Condon or phone: 916/44-7760. Email
Brian Scrip or phone: 707/863-6801.
from Head Start Families
After teaching basic budgeting for three
years we have come to the conclusion we need to refresh our basic
budgeting materials to better reflect the financial needs of our communities.
Following are some of the candid comments we received from Head Start
- During a speech at the Head Start
conference, I asked everyone to raise their hand if they wished
a bank would move into their neighborhood. The room fell silent
and no one raised their hand, so I moved on with the speech. After
the speech one of the senior mangers at Head Start came up to
me and politely said, "What we need is not another bank in
our neighborhood; we need are jobs so we have something to take
to a bank."
- The question of how to manage credit
card debt comes up in every class. High credit card debt is a
burden that is hurting all of these families. We often hear comments
like, "some months I have a choice of paying my credit card
minimum or my electric bill." After doing a monthly budget,
many of the families barely have enough money to live on or they
have none. It is not unusual to see a family making $28,000 per
year with $9,000 in credit card debt. It is clear that the banking
industry needs to be more responsible in giving out multiple credit
cards with no thought of repayment ability. We have found that
giving someone too much credit can hurt as much as unfairly denying
credit. Now we teach in every seminar how to avoid the "credit
card trap" and will include this in the basic budget rewrite.
- We often get questions about the best
way to search for a loan. With approximately one FDIC-insured
branch for every 250 people in San Francisco and many other loan
companies, people simply get confused trying to find the best
- Another question we hear asked in
a lot of different ways is, "I have poor credit what can
I do?" About 26 percent of low-income families have what
would be considered poor credit. WestAmerica Bank is not a credit
repair counseling agency so we have stayed away from this issue.
However, it is becoming too important a topic to skip over and
we plan to address it in the rewrite.
Start facts provided by the National Head Start Association (http://www.nhsa.org/research/research_re_bites.htm)
For the past five years, Brian Scrip has been the vice president and compliance
manager for Westamerica Bank and its affiliates as well as the community
reinvestment officer for the Bank. As compliance manager, Brian monitors
the bank's regulatory compliance program. As CRA officer, he is responsible
for creating the bank's CRA plan, developing a strategy for implementing
the plan and creating new ways to help the community and the bank's CRA
Brian's CRA motto: "there is always better idea
and approach, we just haven't thought of it yet" precisely reflects
his creative, "outside the box" attitude towards CRA. His CRA
dream is to create a giant web site dedicated to all things CRA that could
provide a one stop place to convene CRA people, projects, ideas and opportunities.
Prior to working for Westamerica Bank, Brian was
an examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Office
of Thrift Supervision. As an examiner, he worked in all areas of regulatory
compliance and examination. He also completed several special projects
concerning fair lending. Before becoming a regulator, Brian worked for
12 years at various financial and mortgage banking institutions. There
he performed compliance and research duties. Brian earned a B.A. from
the University of the Pacific.