Poverty means more than not having money.

It means lacking education on how to organize one’s personal finances, and it means being stuck in patterns of behavior that help with survival but make it difficult to escape poverty.

Rising Star Bree Shellito knows that better than many — she grew up in a family impacted by poverty. But she’s gotten out, and now, she’s going back to share what she’s learned.

Shellito works at Ent Credit Union as the financial institution’s community education coordinator. Day-to-day, she organizes presentations and resources for schools and organizations seeking to teach young people about finances, mostly targeting high school and early college students.

“I think that that’s the trouble is that parents often think that schools are teaching [about credit and finance], and schools think the parents are teaching it,” she said. “Then there’s this big gap where even if the parents are teaching it, parents often learned their financial skills from their parents.”

That doesn’t just affect young people who have learned finance from parents who survived poverty. Some people with more make bad assumptions about their financial needs. And given that she says 61 percent of Americans have under $1,000 in savings, an amount that even a minor crisis could wipe out, her work is needed.

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Shellito is the first person to have her title. While Ent has received requests for financial education materials, the credit union did not have any employees dedicated to handling such requests until January 2018. Shellito is also planning larger events to reach more people and teach them about things like how credit scores work.

That all ties into decisions she made for herself early on in life. Shellito wanted stability and the opportunity to chase bigger dreams than someone in her parents’ socioeconomic range could.

She wants better for herself, but she also wants better for the communities she’s part of.

Recently, she completed Leadership Pikes Peak’s LeadershipNow! Program, integrating herself with local nonprofits and community and business leaders, and she’s now part of the organization’s steering committee, adding to her responsibilities as a member of the steering committee for Ent’s Young Professionals group.

“Bree believes in the power of women and leadership,” said business banker D’Andre Johnson, who nominated her for the Rising Stars recognition. “She exemplifies what it means to be a go-getter. Bree continues to grow and enrich the lives of everyone she meets… It is amazing to watch her work hand [in] hand with the many initiatives her job requires.”

Currently, Shellito is attending UCCS and seeking a degree in communication, expanding her skill-set and further embodying a favorite quote from Albert Einstein: “Be a voice, not an echo.”

— Griffin Swartzell

What advice would you give your younger self?

“Always be authentic. Always be yourself. Don’t always just be what people expect you to be.”