Being a first-generation college student and the son of a steel worker in Pueblo, Colorado, taught Rich Martinez the value of hard work and living within one’s means. Now the CSU alumnus leads an organization committed to teaching young people how to manage their finances.
“It’s incredibly rewarding, especially from the background that I came from personally,” says Martinez, president and CEO of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education. “It’s about living the American Dream.”
The center offers three educational programs that teach kids basic economics and business skills: Young AmeriTowne, International Towne and YouthBiz. Martinez also leads Young Americans Bank, the only bank in the world specifically designed for people 21 or younger.
Martinez gained his own financial management skills while earning a B.A. in finance from CSU in the early 1990s. He met his wife, Staci Martinez, on campus while she was getting her bachelor’s degree in history, and now their daughter Colette is entering her second year in CSU’s College of Business.
Rich Martinez says an internship he had with United Banks of Colorado while at CSU was integral in teaching him the banking business, because each semester he rotated to a different department, allowing him to learn the entire operation. After graduation, he spent about seven years as an examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of Denver before joining Young Americans in 1999.
“I look back now, and it’s amazing to see what CSU has done to attract more Hispanic students,” Martinez says. “There’s a great support system on campus, and nobody seems to slip through the cracks, which is incredible.”