MADISON, Wis. (3/7/11)--The 2011 National Youth Saving Challenge sponsored by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is gaining steady momentum, CUNA said. The number of participating credit unions has grown to more than 100, and is expected to increase. Last year’s Saving Challenge saw nearly 350 credit unions join it. Held in conjunction with National Credit Union Youth Week throughout April, the Saving Challenge puts the spotlight on youth in a contest tracking deposits. Last year, nearly 170,000 young members deposited $24.8 million into their savings accounts during the month, and more than 10,000 opened new accounts. The 139 credit unions joining the Saving Challenge have set a goal to take in more than $4 million in deposits from about 32,000 youth in April. The challenge’s popularity comes from its fun, flexible approach to encouraging young people to develop good savings habits, CUNA said. CUNA provides resources, promotional materials and products, and celebration ideas, but individual credit unions build their own celebrations using the unique service commitment that defines the credit union movement. Jean Tatar at St. Pius X FCU in Rochester, N.Y., works with schools each week to teach youth about making deposits and earning rewards. Students can meet with credit union staff and ask questions. “It is so important to educate our youth on finances, especially in this economy,” Tatar said. The Saving Challenge also permits credit unions to set their own goals and run the contest during a timeframe that fits their community calendar. Daviess County Teachers FCU in Owensboro, Ky., has had success with Youth Week, meeting and exceeding its Saving Challenge goals each year since 2005. Involvement in both Youth Week and Saving Challenge activities has been met with enthusiasm from young savers, said the credit union. “We feel it’s the best opportunity for teaching our young members the importance of ‘paying yourself first,’” said Lauren Mayhew, marketing director at Daviess County Teachers FCU and north central region coordinator for the National Youth Involvement Board. “Our youth never cease to amaze me with their enthusiasm for saving at their credit union.” For this year’s program, CUNA has added a mentoring service designed to link up credit union staff new to the Saving Challenge with individuals who have already planned, hosted and completed many celebrations. The mentors want to share their success stories and answer any questions. For more information, use the link. Mentor Lani Fritz, from Michael Baker Jr. FCU, in Moon Township, Pa., believes in the value of Youth Week and its role in promoting financial literacy. Joining the National Youth Saving Challenge sends a strong message to young people and their parents, and cultivates longstanding relationships between credit unions and their members, she added. “We care very much about teaching our youth that every penny they discipline themselves to save, counts to us as well,” Fritz said.