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Dupaco, HEART program foster financial stability, career paths for students

A new alliance aims to help potentially at-risk Dubuque-area high school students create sustainable careers. The partnership brings together the Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training (HEART) Program, Dupaco Community Credit Union and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation.

The effort includes hands-on learning, financial education and savings goals, certificate programs and advanced degrees. The program also is intended to address the local economy’s growing shortage of skilled workers.

Through the alliance called HEART Bridge, Dupaco Community Credit Union and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation annually contribute staff expertise and more than $10,000 in direct matching contributions and operational support.

The new initiative builds upon the successful results of the 12-year-old HEART Program. Through hands-on revitalization projects, the program teaches valuable trade skills to juniors and seniors who may be at-risk of dropping out of high school.

Through the enhanced HEART Bridge program:
1. Dupaco Community Credit Union opens a savings account and provides financial coaching required by the program to help ensure the participant’s goals are met;
2. Students earn a stipend as they learn valuable hands-on trade skills during housing and community revitalization projects;
3. The Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation will match the savings amount once the goal is attained;
4. Participants can use their savings and matched funds toward certificate programs, degree programs, career equipment or tools.
5. The HEART Program continues to teach trade skills and coach students toward viable career paths.

To help these students build skills, the Four Mounds Foundation and its partners—Dubuque Community School District, the City of Dubuque and Four Oaks of Iowa, Inc.—created its HEART Program in 2003 to revitalize blighted neighborhoods and community buildings in Dubuque. This program empowers its participants to take part in community revitalization projects while also working on becoming better leaders and developing viable career paths.

Modeled after Dupaco’s highly successful Individual Development Accounts (IDA), HEART Bridge participants leverage their savings and match for acquiring wealth-building assets and marketable skills.

Contributions from Dupaco Community Credit Union, employees and members fund the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation. Student support also is being provided by the McDonough Charitable Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Dubuque.

“Dupaco’s mission is to improve each member’s financial position through sustainable money methods. A person’s marketable job skills are among the most important attributes to long-term, independent success. By teaching a sustainable trade, the HEART Program complements Dupaco’s mission,” says Dupaco President/CEO Joe Hearn.

He added that the program also is designed to address the area’s skilled workforce shortage, which the Greater Dubuque Development Corp. has identified as the “No. 1 issue for our economy and the No. 1 issue our employers will face in the next 10 years.”

According to its director Chris Olson, HEART Bridge is a critical new program component to help support students on the path to a successful adulthood.

“We’re so grateful to have the technical and financial support of Dupaco Community Credit Union and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation. Long-term and short-term money management are such important skills for our students,” says Olson. “Dupaco is helping our young people set and work toward life goals, with real incentives and a practical application through savings and member accounts.”

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