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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

15 Years of ‘Crashing’ GAC

By W.B. King


Known today as “Crash the GAC,” this unique happening began as a rogue movement 15 years ago when eager, next-generation credit union enthusiasts first bobbed and weaved their way into the heralded Government Affairs Conference, held every year in Washington, D.C.


“I wanted to be a voice for the unheard people and the people who are overlooked. I, myself, am a first generation high school grad and first generation college student, raised by a single mom,” said MC Federal Credit Union’s Natalie Waltz, who noted that she was among 50 “crashers” selected of the 241 who applied this year (the highest number on record). Eight returning mentors rounded out this year’s group.


Natalie Waltz (bottom, center) pictured with some of her fellow 2024 GAC crashers. Photo credit: Filene Research Institute.

The $213 million, Danville, Penn.-based credit union serves more than 13,000 members. Waltz, an executive administrative assistant and membership officer, shared her thoughts on the podcast, “Financial Minds—Meet the Experts,” hosted by Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union’s marketing and business development director, Jaime Agostino.


“Being a crasher gives me an opportunity to really make the needs known of some people who kind of fall behind in society,” she said of the CUNA GAC event, which took place from March 3 to 7, 2024.

 

“I hope to build lifelong relationships with my peers and bring back their ideas and advice to my credit union and make a difference in small town Pennsylvania,” she said. “And [I want] to interact with mentors who have been in the credit union movement a lot longer and build a stronger foundation for my own future.”


A former attendee of the conference, Agostino said GAC, as a crasher or otherwise, is “a lot to take in in such a short period of time,” noting the various events, sessions and trade show.


Established in 2016 with the merger of Mid-Atlantic Corporate Federal Credit Union and First Carolina Corporate Credit Union, Vizo Financial is a state-chartered credit union, with headquarters in Greensboro, N.C as well as an office in Middletown, Penn. Vizo Financial serves over 1,200 credit unions, leagues and CUSOs in 46 states and Canada.


‘Be Interested, Not Interesting, And You Will Go far’


America’s Credit Unions, for the first time, hosted the 2024 “Crash the GAC.” The event is championed by The Cooperative Trust from Filene Research Institute, though in a released statement the organization noted that America’s Credit Unions generously covered the registration costs of the crashers.


“Attendees will have plenty to experience at this premiere advocacy event, from expert analysis on economic trends and regulatory impacts to hiking to Capitol Hill and speaking directly with lawmakers on the issues credit unions and their members care about,” said America’s Credit Unions President and CEO Jim Nussle.



Filene’s Community Development Director, Cortney Arnold, added that each year a new group of credit union “superstar” crashers are welcomed with open arms. “Crashers go on to make real impact in the credit union system and our incoming cohort of amazing folks will be sure to dazzle with their collective power and expertise. This crasher class is one to watch.”


Prior to attending GAC, Waltz shared that one of the “specialized speakers,” who was scheduled solely for the crasher class, administered a “5 Voices Assessment.” Upon taking the test, she learned that in the “professional world” she is categorized as a “nurturer” — a person who thinks of other people first, and brings people together.  


“People who have crashed in the past, even as recently as last year — everybody is echoing the same thought—that it is life changing and already I have learned some things … like a quote [from] one our meetings: Be interested, not interesting, and you will go far.”

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