My name is J.D. Yaklich and I grew up in Englewood, CO and attended Englewood public schools. Since then, I have gone on to become a Daniels Fund Scholar and attend the University of Colorado at Boulder studying marketing in the Leeds School of Business. This summer I have had the opportunity to intern at Young Americans Center, which has made once distant childhood memories fresh again.
Like many of my Colorado peers, I attended Young AmeriTowne as a child and it is one of those memories that are easy to remember. In elementary school, it seems like field trips are a dime a dozen. Though I still remember trips to the Denver Zoo, Celestial Seasonings, and the Sinclair Pool, they are just a blur in the catalog of childhood experiences. However, Young AmeriTowne is still a vivid memory as if it had not happened ten years ago.
Gearing up for Towne
At Clayton Elementary, Young AmeriTowne was not just another field trip, it was THE field trip. I first caught wind of the experience in third grade. At the time, my mom was the school librarian/ 5th grade Para teacher, meaning she got to experience Young AmeriTowne before I did. My own mother came home blown away by the experience, making it hard for me to not get excited. The excitement for my classmates and I really started to grow in fourth grade, as every fifth grader brags about their experience and the rest of us see the glimmer in the distance knowing our opportunity is a year away.
The time finally came for me to dive in to the AmeriTowne experience. I remember details from every step of the process: learning how to write checks in Ms. Whittington’s class, applying for jobs, and elections for mayor and judge. However, like most people, the highlight was actually running the town. My job was Towne Hall accountant, which was my top choice. Running town seems like a flash of lightning, as it seemed to have come and gone so quickly. We were all focused on our jobs and running around the different shops that the day flew by. I can vividly remember three things: the layout of Towne Hall and working at my desk, buying invisible ink (the top item to buy during my Young AmeriTowne experience), and being exhausted by the end of the day.
I think it is hard to look back on a childhood experience and really determine what you learned. However, looking at the person I am today I think that my experiences then could have played a role in the person I am today. For one, I am very careful with what I spend, which is a product of learning the importance of balancing money at a younger age. Though it is hard to track, I think that was the point where I realized math was not something I wanted to build a career around and that I wanted a job with more personal interaction. As the accountant, I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk plugging numbers and watched as other students got to interact with each other. I loved my experience at AmeriTowne, but I can confidently say I did not love my job. Coming back for International Towne the next year, I took those lessons and made sure I was in charge of my own country so I could be interacting more throughout the day. Ever since, I have thrived in activities that not only allowed me to have personal interaction with people, but also found myself taking leadership roles within these jobs and activities. Last but not least, I think I learned the hard work it was going to require to succeed. I left the day very pleased with my work but was exhausted. Young AmeriTowne, for me, was a fun way to experience adult life as a kid, but taught me the reality that having a job and doing it well was going to require hard work.
Having the opportunity to intern at Young Americans is such a blessing. It has given me the chance to reflect on special experiences of my childhood while seeing today’s youth make these same memories for themselves. Watching the Towne run today seems much slower – not flying by like a flash – but I know these kids are experiencing Towne the way I did. All of this has made my first few weeks here already so rewarding. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if I was merely a Young AmeriTowne nerd and that no one else reflected so fondly on these memories; I was wrong. Telling my friends about my job was so fun, as I saw their eyes light up when I said, “Yeah, and Young Americans also runs Young AmeriTowne.” We sat and had a lengthy conversation all reflecting back on our own experiences at Young AmeriTowne, and the excitement we all still have about our time here. Whether we went to the same school or not, we all had that experience and still look back on it with a smile and a fond memory. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s pretty special.