By Amy Jo Miller
Rich Martinez (’92) grew up in a typical middle-class home in Pueblo, Colorado. His father was a steel worker, his mother a homemaker, and like many baby boomers starting families in the 70s, the Martinez family worked hard to make ends meet.
“Money was a mystery to me growing up,” Martinez explains. A mystery that cultivated an interest, which soon became a passion, for finance. “My family didn’t have the money to send me to school, but they valued education. Scholarship made everything realistic; it was a godsend.”
As a First Generation Award recipient in 1988, Martinez has gone on to become a first-generation scholarship donor 28 years later. A successful career has put him in a position to be able to give back to the University that started it all for him.
“Coming from Pueblo, Fort Collins was an incredible match for me,” Martinez said. He made connections on campus with hometown, family friends in Connie Lujan from the CSU Access Center, which gave campus a personal touch. “That’s why I chose CSU; it felt like home.”
Martinez graduated in 1992 with his bachelor’s degree in business administration, focused in finance. An internship encouraged by his College of Business advisor turned into his first job at United Bank, eventually launching his banking career with the Federal Reserve.
That position connected him with the organization he leads now, Young Americans Center for Financial Education. “I supervised the Young Americans Bank as part of my portfolio with the Federal Reserve and was amazed at the education they were providing young kids,” Martinez explains. “I didn’t have this kind of education; my parents weren’t financially savvy.”
Established by Bill Daniels, who believed the bank was the center of the American free enterprise system and felt if people couldn’t understand it, how could they ever have a shot at the American dream, the Young Americans Bank and Center for Education works to instill this foundation in today’s youth.
Knowing how important the mission of this organization was and wanting to get involved any way he could, Martinez started volunteering – which eventually landed him the title of President and CEO of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education.
The education and mentorship Martinez received at CSU enabled him to turn his interest in finance into a career ensuring that Colorado youth grow up knowing how to earn, make, and manage their money wisely, regardless of background. Only at Young Americans can a kid start their own business by age seven, become mayor at 10, rule the world at 13, or take out a business loan at age 16.
“My passion for Young Americans stems from my own personal background growing up in a blue-collar family with a great work ethic and seeing how far I’ve come through hard work and education,” Martinez shared. “The ability for me to head up an organization like this is the American dream. We need to make sure our young people are equipped with the skills they need to be successful at life and achieve their dreams as well.”