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In early 2015, Erika,* a Pueblo-area 5th grader, awoke to over a foot of snow outside her home. She ran downstairs to confirm—her school was closed due to the weather. She immediately burst into tears.
You might think this is an odd reaction for a 5th grader, until you learn that Erika’s school was scheduled to visit Young AmeriTowne On the Road that day. She and her classmates had been preparing for months, ever since they found out that their school would be among the first to attend AmeriTowne in its inaugural visit to Pueblo. Although students in Metro Denver have a 20-year tradition of “5th grade at Young AmeriTowne,” young people in communities like Pueblo lacked this opportunity. The geographic distance between Pueblo and Denver made the trip difficult, and the small class size of most Pueblo schools meant that there were not enough citizens to run the Towne.
CoBank changed everything for 5th graders like Erika as its partnership with Young Americans focuses on care and commitment particularly for families living in rural communities. CoBank’s leadership enabled Young Americans to expand reach, to improve technology to run programs in real-time anywhere in the state, and to provide financial aid for hundreds of low-income students. Moreover, CoBank led the way in funding a new, travelling version of Young AmeriTowne—a wow of a Towne that can be assembled like magic in just a couple of days—which allowed AmeriTowne to move beyond three permanent sites in Denver, Lakewood and Wray.
Now, to finish Erika’s story. She feared that snowstorm meant all of her hard work at school—writing checks, interviewing for a job, learning how supply and demand works—would be lost. “We’d been practicing at school since day one,” she said, “getting ready to come.” What’s more, Erika couldn’t wait to open up a real Radio Station at AmeriTowne on the Road with her co-workers. They had named their shop Rockin’ Radio, and had practiced a catchy slogan to attract customers.
Erika’s story ends happily. Young Americans Center’s staff members were able to rearrange the schedule to accommodate the cancelled day. The very next week, Erika had the time of her life, earning her first paycheck ever as a Radio DJ, and managing her money with her own checking account and “live” debit card.
Since its first visit to Pueblo, On the Road has grown exponentially and now reaches 4,000 students each year. With visits to Pueblo, Grand Junction, Durango, Fort Collins/Greeley and Denver, now 45% of Colorado students like Erika get to earn their first paycheck and open their first bank account in Young AmeriTowne.
Thank you CoBank for your key role in this exciting tale. “CoBank is truly building the future of the nation by giving youth hands-on, real life experiences that prepare them for success as adults,” said Richard E. Martinez, Jr., President and CEO, Young Americans Center for Financial Education. “We can’t wait to see what the next school year brings!”
CoBank is a national cooperative bank serving agriculture and other vital businesses across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.
*Name has been changed