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A long ride from the little red wagon to the banquet table


Kalen Acquisto

I was bouncing up and down in the Radio Flyer wagon as it clanked along the uneven city sidewalks. People were chanting words of appreciation as the parade marched along celebrating the anniversary of The Young Americans Bank and Center for Financial Education. Bill Daniels, also known as the “Father of Cable Television” and one of the greatest Colorado philanthropists, founded this nonprofit center and bank in 1987. It all started with a vision; this bank was established in response to a group of young students who were denied a small bank loan for their school project. It is a real bank, but designed exclusively for people aged 21 and under. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was the start of my lifelong affair with philanthropy.












Only at Young Americans Bank and Center can 7 year-olds start their own business, 10 year-olds become mayor, 13 year-olds rule the world, and 16 year-olds take out a business loan. I used a stepstool to reach the teller counter to open an account at the age of four, participated in summer camps and weekly Saturday morning ‘Money Matters’ classes, and I was a 6:00 p.m. news anchor in ‘Young AmeriTowne’.  At the Young Entrepreneurs Marketplace annual event, I created and sold everything from American Sign Language I love you chocolates to nose stands for people to rest their spectacles on. Eventually, I found myself at the front of Young Americans classes teaching what I had learned to a new generation. At the wise old age of 16 as a member of the Youth Advisory Board, I met with staff regularly to discuss bank operations and educational programs.

While investing in the stock market is not my expertise (just ask Mr. Tutt), I’ve discovered greater takeaways from my time at the Young Americans Bank and Center for Financial Education. For one, I was able to gain a broad understanding of banking, community organization, personal finance, and the global marketplace, by age 10. But more importantly, I personally experienced the impact of Bill Daniels’ philanthropic work. All it took was one compassionate and innovative individual to respond to a need for funding and educating when he realized there was a gap to fill in his community. Being a part of this institution was my first insight into philanthropy and I now understand the source of my passion for the work I do at El Pomar.

During my Fellowship, I was given the opportunity to reconnect with the Young Americans Bank when I attended a reception in Denver this fall. As I watched the precocious young leaders under the spotlight, I couldn’t help but reflect on how my perspective on philanthropy has developed since riding in the little red wagon.

Look for Kalen's blog again next month!