Pueblo 5th graders get financial literacy lessons

Dozens of 5th graders from Desert Sage elementary school gathered Thursday at Pueblo Community College for a very grown-up lesson that many people don’t learn until adulthood, if at all — how to run a business and manage finances.

Thursday’s lesson gave the students an opportunity to run a small town with a town hall, bank, medical center, newspaper, print shop, radio and TV stations, snack shop and container shop.

“They are running shops and they are taking out a bank loan to buy the products that they will sell,” said Rich Martinez, president and CEO of Young Americans Center for Financial Education, which organized the event, called Young Ameritowne on the Road.

“Their goal is to make enough profit selling those goods or services to pay back their bank loan, plus 10% interest at the end of the day,” Martinez said. “Accountants will be furiously going through all of the numbers the kids have.”

Pueblo D60 High Schools: Final beams placed on Pueblo high schools in ‘topping-out’ construction ceremonies

Students were given paychecks at the start of the day, which they deposited in their accounts at the Young AmeriTowne Bank. They were also supplied with Young AmeriTowne cash, checks and a debit card.

“Once they get their paycheck, their job is to not overdraw their account… making sure that their check register has all their transactions recorded and that they don’t overdraw their account as they shop,” Martinez said.

Legacy Bank is one of the sponsors of the Pueblo program.

“It just lines up so perfectly with what we think is important, which is financial education,” said Rebecca Diaz, vice president of the bank.

“What we find more and more is that kids these days don’t understand how finances work, how credit cards work. They don’t understand how loans work.

“Teaching them at a younger age, it’s setting them up for more success in life,” Diaz said.

Prior to attending the Young AmeriTowne event at PCC, students took part in eight weeks of classroom training in financial literacy, philanthropy, job training and banking.

“This is kind of the culminating activity where they take everything they have learned from those eight weeks and apply it,” said Erin Mares, a 5th grade teacher at Desert Sage.

Learning opportunities: Pueblo D60 puts emphasis on computer science skills with coding curriculum

Desert Sage students have participated in AmeriTowne since the first program came to Pueblo eight years ago. It is modeled on a program run out of the Denver Metro area, where it reaches about 60% of 5th graders there, Martinez said. Over 200 5th graders are participating in the program in Pueblo, the organizers said in a statement.

The program has had a lasting impression on students who have taken part in it in the past, said Desert Sage 5th grade teacher Lynne Luna.

“We were talking to kids from past years that are in high school or middle school and they still remember what their job was and what their laws were,” she said. “It’s definitely an experience that sticks with them.”

Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo students run the town at ‘Young AmeriTowne’ event

Leave a Comment