SKOKIE, Ill. (8/12/11)--First Financial FCU, based in in Skokie, Ill., began offering Money Mission, which is generally targeted to 16 to 19 year-olds, a year ago and has seen great results, says the credit union. Money Mission is an interactive Web-based simulation designed to educate users in the fundamentals of financial literacy. It is made available to credit unions through a partnership between the Credit Union National Association and the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Money Mission includes inputs from external data such as stock market prices and cost of living changes; user choices in the area of life-event choices, money management; a user configurable experience including customizable characters (“Avatars”) and selectable vehicles; and entertaining animated lessons teaching users critical financial principles. The $53.6 million asset First Financial CU began using Money Mission at the end of last summer, Jennifer Kulkoski, marketing manager, told News Now. “Initially we ran it through our membership’s high school and college-age kids and gave free movie tickets to those who would try it,” she said. “This year, we started our own scholarship to offer at a school for kids with learning disabilities, and that gave us a good boost in usage as well.” Kulkoski got in touch with a teacher at the school--a contact made through a credit union board member--to offer a $500 scholarship once a year to the winner of an essay contest. Participants write a 250-word essay, answering one of four questions, she said. Students at other schools are also offered a chance at a scholarship, which is advertised through a credit union newsletter, e-mails to members and fliers in the credit union’s lobby, she added. First Financial saw 200 to 215 teens sign up for Money Mission through the credit union’s website, Kulkoski said. A lot of traffic also on the credit union’s website comes from Money Mission participants, according to First Financials’ analytics, she added. “We’ve definitely noticed that a lot of kids who signed up or asked about Money Mission heard about it through seminars they go through at their schools, Mad City Money programs and checking our website,” Kulkoski said. “Kids are really excited. It’s really picking up and is a good program for us.” Regarding future plans for Money Mission, First Financial CU is hoping to join forces with Chicago public schools to offer the program directly through the schools, Kulkoski said.