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Community Advocacy Organization

Local Credit Union Diversity Officer is Leaving a Legacy on the Industry

Updated: Feb 23, 2023


courtesy of LAFCU


“How are you doing…really?”


A seemingly simple question, but according to the Chief Diversity Officer at one local Michigan credit union, it can trigger a flood of emotion. In 2020, when the murder of George Floyd intersected a global pandemic, resulting in a country soaked with grief, Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison, LAFCU’s Chief Marketing Officer, mobilized. In doing so, she has left a lasting imprint on the industry.


In the midst of national turmoil, she carried out candid, thoughtful conversations with supervisors and colleagues, giving her perspective as a Woman of Color with ample experience in the industry. These impactful meetings and stories were the cornerstones of her historic appointment as LAFCU’s first Chief Diversity Officer after over 30 years with the company. In the short two years since her appointment, she has managed to build an award-winning diversity program that was recognized by Corp! Magazine in 2022.


Ellsworth-Etchison said, “LAFCU has given me the ability to make my mark. I have been able to identify my passions. I have always had a passion for mentoring people…When I mentor, I am also mentored. I’ve been able to create programs that will live well past me.”


After becoming LAFCU’s Chief Diversity Officer, Ellsworth-Etchison started by facilitating personal conversations in a professional setting; this model starkly contrasted the traditional ways of compartmentalizing personal and professional life, though, Ellsworth-Etchison does not believe that produces the most cohesive, healthy environment. In turn, she curates a safe space and talking points to discuss more about who each person is, where they are from, the communities they grew up in, schools they attended and what they believe as these are the very factors that make each person unique.


Ellsworth-Etchison said, “We are a small employer but we are quite diverse. We needed to first do a deep dive into how we show up at work. We want to make sure people are co-existing in their differences and being kind humans in those differences.”


Ellsworth-Etchison explained that those employed at the credit union are a reflection of the clients who come in each day and step up to their desks for services. Each client has a story; LAFCU’s diversity division is promoting a greater sense of connectivity and authentic community amongst the employees to build their consciousness. This intention positively impacts interactions with clientele and guests causing a ripple effect.


Of the new initiatives, she said, “It makes us all richer.”


courtesy of LAFCU


One of the many other inclusive initiatives she assisted in birthing over 15 years ago is a scholarship program that continues to grow; in 2023 alone, LAFCU will provide $20,000 to send four high school seniors to college. One of the unique features that sets this award apart from many others of its type is that it is based on a one-page essay rather than the student’s GPA.


Ellsworth-Etchison highlighted that there are many barriers that may bar a student from having a top-tier grade point average, but those same students with 2.0’s should still have an opportunity; they can still have great success in college and go on to have wonderful careers.


Some students work each day after school to help their families pay the bills while others are taking care of younger siblings. It is also true that neurodiversity can affect school performance, making it more challenging to receive those high marks. Through LAFCU’s offering, everyone has an equal opportunity to go to college.


When reflecting on the lasting positive impact these programs will have on the community, she said, “This will last well beyond Kelli.”


In addition to her award-winning work at LAFCU, Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison was appointed on Governor Whitmer’s Black Leadership Advisory Council. She serves as Commissioner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan, and she has assisted the City of East Lansing on the independent police oversight committee. She is also a published poet, and she enjoys golfing as a pasttime.


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