This holiday season marks 27 years of teamwork Thoreau Middle School students and Navy Federal Credit Union employees say they’re thankful for. Together, the two have formed a partnership that supports students in the Vienna, Virginia community, and provides Navy Federal headquarters employees an opportunity to give back.

School Counselor Eric Fishman leads the program at Thoreau. “The cool part of the program is that it gives students a chance to form a bond with a member of the community they can learn from, and talk confidentially with about whatever is on their mind,” says Fishman. 13-year-old Patrick and his mentor were immediately a match, sharing a love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Patrick, “It’s cool to have someone to talk to about school and football every week.”

For Patrick’s mentor, Mike Keller, Jr., serving members at Navy Federal and supporting local middle school students are equally as rewarding.

At Navy Federal, Mike helps members every day who are facing financial challenges. During his weekly trips to Thoreau, he’s able to make a difference in another way.

“In between talking about the weekly NFL® match-ups, I’m able to learn more about Patrick, and provide him guidance and advice,” said Keller.

While this is Mike’s first year as a mentor, he’s joined by a team of Navy Federal volunteer veterans.

Pam Bradley has been a mentor for 23 years. “Giving back is one of my favorite parts of my job at Navy Federal,” said Bradley. “I’m able to share my financial knowledge with students who may not know a lot about managing money.”

The nearly three-decade long partnership is an investment both Thoreau and Navy Federal intend to continue.

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