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Young AmeriTowne is an award-winning educational program offered for elementary students to help simulate business, economics and free enterprise scenarios in a fun and hands-on way. Children’s Hospital Colorado recently remodeled AmeriTowne’s Medical Center to help teach children about the economics of the medical field.
At the Medical Center of Young AmeriTowne, fifth-grader Claire is getting an education in time-management. Her fifth-grade patient, who is a bank teller today, reclines on an examination table and rattles off a long list of symptoms — nausea, vomiting, pale, clammy skin — and Claire is scrambling to keep up.
“What’s wrong with him now?” Classmate Eleny studies the patient’s OOPS card, preparing to take over.
Claire hands her a tablet and scoots away on a wheeled stool. “A lot of stuff. Good luck.”
Outside the Medical Center at least 100 kids crisscross Young AmeriTowne’s town square, which occupies most of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education’s second floor, on various missions involving buying, selling and writing checks, all of them pressing.
The Medical Center, recently revamped and redesigned by Children’s Hospital Colorado, features fresh décor and new wheelchairs, lab coats and lockers, plus an exam table and a jar of gooey eyeballs that go for two dollars a pop.
They’re little details, but the details are key to the total play immersion that is Young AmeriTowne, a staple of growing up in Denver for 25 years.
“All three of my kids went through Young AmeriTowne, and all three had great experiences learning what it is to run a city and manage finances,” recalls Children’s Colorado Chief Financial Officer Jeff Harrington. “So that’s how I became aware of it. Then a very good friend of mine became an employee of Young AmeriTowne and invited me to take a look.”
By the end of his visit, Harrington knew he wanted Children’s Colorado to play a role. “We sponsor things in the community that are good for kids,” he says. “You think about population health or keeping kids well — education is number one. The only way we can keep kids well is to keep them educated, and I think Young AmeriTowne is doing just that.”
Back at the Medical Center, Claire’s moved on to the mayor, the center’s newest patient, who’s just been wheeled in wearing an Uncle Sam top hat and vest.
“What’s wrong with you?” Claire asks, pencil poised.
“Nothing. The mayor backs his wheelchair out the door, knowing the visit — compulsory, as visits to a medical center are in real life — is going to cost him. Great healthcare isn’t free, after all, and at the end of the day, the clinic needs to balance the books.
Ella, fifth-grader and clinic manager, swoops behind him and pushes the chair back toward Claire. “He has high cholesterol.”
“I heard you guys have eyeballs for sale,” a kid calls from the door. When no one answers, he takes a few tentative steps inside. “Hey, I heard you guys have eyeballs for sale.”
Parent-volunteer Stephanie Gore hands the jar of individually wrapped gooey eyeballs down to Eleny, who’s too short to reach it, and Eleny makes the sale.
“That’ll be two dollars,” she tells the kid, and he writes a check. Later, Eleny tells me that she loves working in the Medical Center — both of her parents work in medical centers, she says, and she’s looking forward to “following in their footsteps.”
“Guys,” Gore says, “we really need to upsell these eyeballs. That’s how we’re going to make our money.”
The mayor — clearly a kid who thought it would be funny to be mayor but now doesn’t quite know how to handle the power — is again trying to escape.
Claire can’t even deal. “I’ve got too much to do,” she moans. “I’m stressed!”
Gore cracks a smile. “Welcome to the real world.”