Alpine Bank scholarship paved way for Esgar Acosta’s success
EAGLE — Tucked in the pages of local newspapers from this week back in 1998 was a small item noting that Esgar Acosta, of Eagle County, was the first Alpine Bank/CMC Hispanic Scholarship winner to graduate from Colorado Mountain College.
Twenty years later, Acosta is just one member of a corps of Western Slope students who have collected diplomas because of the program.
It was back in 1996 when Alpine Bank first conceived of the scholarship program which includes books and tuition to CMC for two years. The program has grown to include 15 high schools located in the 11 communities served by an Alpine Bank in the college’s seven-county district. In today’s dollars, the scholarship equals approximately $2,200 per year, for two years.
But there were only five recipients back in 1996 and today Acosta has a photo of that first scholarship group, clustered around Alpine Bank founder and chairman Bob Young, displayed in his office. To prove there is truth in the adage that what comes around goes around, today Acosta’s office is located at Alpine Bank in Eagle, where he works as a loan officer.
“That Alpine Bank scholarship pretty much paved the road to where I am now,” Acosta said.
Back as a student in Eagle Valley High School’s Class of 1996, Acosta said his teachers and coaches encouraged him to plan for college. But he knew that he needed to get scholarship money to make that dream happen.
He applied for lots of scholarships his senior year, and was fortunate enough to be awarded the Alpine Bank award. At the time he was glad to get the money for school, but as his college career progressed he was grateful for the on-going support he received.
Between the bank and CMC, Acosta said he had great mentors who kept track of his progress and were there to help make sure he succeeded at college.
He graduated with an associate’s degree in law enforcement and he moved to El Paso, Texas, where he hoped to be hired by the U.S. Marshal’s Service. He eventually returned to Colorado and completed his bachelor’s degree — in Spanish with a minor in psychology — at the University of Northern Colorado.
After college, Acosta returned to the valley and he was working at Car Quest when fellow EVHS alum and Alpine Bank Eagle President Rachel Gerlach got in touch.
“She called me and asked if I would like to try working in the banking world. I said ‘No, that sounds boring,’” Acosta said, with a grin.
He also had his doubts about how his degree would fit with a finance career. But Gerlach and others convinced him to give it a try.
“At Alpine Bank, they look at the whole person, not just the degree,” Acosta said.
Banking on Acosta
He began work at Alpine Bank in 2006 as a management trainee. “They helped me all the way through the process,” Acosta said.
He credited Grant Murphy with teaching him how to write both loans and letters. Other parts of the job came naturally.
He noted that Alpine Bank encourages its staff members to get involved in the communities they serve. As a result, Acosta found himself working with various community groups including the Eagle County Crimestoppers Board and the Eagle Valley Rod and Gun Club board.
“I knew I wanted to give back to this community for the support I have gotten from the community,” he said.
That desire is evident in is office decor. In that same space where he displays the photo featuring the first Alpine Bank Scholarship winners, he also has a copy of a Vail Daily article that detailed how he teamed with friend and EVHS staff member Robert Cuevas to encourage local Latino youth to plan for college. He is still spreading that message.
“I tell kids don’t hesitate to apply for scholarships because you don’t know what’s next. Don’t get discouraged,” he said.
He noted that the goal behind the Alpine Bank/CMC Hispanic scholarship is to reach a group of kids who may not otherwise be able to attend college. By including the word “Hispanic” in the scholarship title, the bank and the college are attempting to encourage a specific group of kids to apply. The program doesn’t target DACA kids or generational residents with Hispanic heritage, Acosta said. “Hispanic can be almost everyone,” he noted. “There are so many scholarships out there to help and this is just one of them. I can attest to that.”
Back home again
During his first stint with Alpine Bank, Acosta worked in Eagle from 2006-13. He then moved to Amarillo, Texas, to take a post in another community bank. He returned to Alpine Bank in Eagle in July of 2017.
“It was like I had never left,” he said.
Acosta is reacquainting himself with community groups and he and his wife, Karla, are looking forward to raising their two kids — Luna, 10, and Gael, 6, in the valley.
Acosta expressed gratitude that much of the life he enjoys today was set in motion 22 years ago when Alpine Bank offered him a scholarship. Then he laughed as he recalled his scholarship interview, more than two decades ago, with Alpine Bank founder Bob Young.
“He asked me what I wanted to do for living and I told him his job looked pretty good,” Acosta said. “Bob still loves to tell that story.”