A Lifelong Passion for Empowering Youth

by Amy Overgaard Fenske


In 1976, Bob Kaitz co-founded the nonprofit BestPrep, aimed at helping prepare students with business, career, and financial literacy skills through hands-on learning experiences. Today, at the age of 74, Kaitz still serves as the organization’s president and CEO. 


He actually planned to retire at 70, already five years beyond the average retirement age in the United States. But at that point, he still felt passionate about his work and was driven to do more. Of course, delaying retirement also has a positive financial impact for Kaitz. “I was very fortunate that early on I saw the benefit of delaying [retirement], and so we pushed it off to 70,” he says, noting the way that monthly Social Security benefits increase 8% each year you delay retirement past the age of 66. (So, by retiring at 70, a person would receive 132% of their guaranteed benefit each month; credits stop accruing at 70.) “If at all possible, that’s the way to go,” Kaitz says. “If you can push it off a year, two, three or four … you’re going to be that much better off [financially].”


Even when he does retire, Kaitz says he will likely continue working part-time. “Having a sense of purpose is really important. No matter what age people are, they need to have a sense of purpose when [they] get up each morning, rather than having nothing to do.” 


“No matter what age people are, they need to have a sense of purpose when [they] get up each morning.”


Kaitz certainly has purpose and finds enjoyment outside of work, however—playing pickleball, exercising and traveling with his wife, including visiting their children and grandchild. But he doesn’t feel the need to retire to fully enjoy these things. “I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve been doing things along the way,” he says. 


It’s the sense of passion, purpose and career success that Kaitz has and continues to experience that mirrors what he’s trying to accomplish through BestPrep. 






The organization seeks to prepare students in grades 4-12 to be career-focused and financially capable, equipping them with practical skills that will lead to success in work and life. Through BestPrep’s six programs—five of which are designed to integrate into the existing curriculum in a variety of classroom disciplines—students gain hands-on learning experiences. These include mock interviews, workplace tours, career days at local companies and simulated investing, as well as classroom presentations on career opportunities and financial literacy—from budgeting to credit, insurance and taxes. BestPrep’s two popular mentorship programs pair highschool students with business volunteers for one-on-one career-focused mentorship. Each summer, students have the opportunity to dig deeper into these topics with a week-long residential camp, Minnesota Business Venture (MBV).


To offer those hands-on learning experiences, BestPrep partners with Minnesota companies whose employees volunteer their time as classroom presenters and mentors. This intergenerational learning is a key part of the organization’s educational model—and Kaitz says the volunteers learn as much from the younger generation and their experiences as the students do from them, breaking down barriers between the two.


These connections and the “real life” opportunities they offer bring topics to life, helping bridge the gap between traditional classroom learning and developing workplace skills. “We tend to put a spark into what [teachers are] covering,” Kaitz says. “[Our programs and speakers] get the kids more excited about what they’re studying.”


Seven years ago, to better serve students, BestPrep turned its focus toward diversity, intentionally setting out to increase their number of BIPOC volunteers. Many of the students BestPrep serves are BIPOC—including 75% of the 300 students who attended the 2023 MBV camp. “We have seen and done studies that students tend to relate and do better when they see someone that looks like them,” Kaitz says. 


The organization has also focused on diversifying its board and staff. In 2020 these initiatives became all the more urgent, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. “We were really working on that before, but we really put the stake in the sand when that happened,” Kaitz says. This also prompted members of the BestPrep staff to form a racial equity committee as a forum for learning, discussion and identifying issues.


“Students tend to relate and do better when they see someone that looks like them.”


All the events of 2020 began about six months after Kaitz originally planned to retire, and he feels fortunate he could help guide the nonprofit through that time. “I was determined that we would persevere and actually move forward. We expanded both our staffing and our programming during that time,” he says. 


Today, the work continues—for Kaitz, his staff and their volunteers. BestPrep currently offers programming within 350 schools, partnering with 500 teachers to serve 40,000 students. More than 5,500 volunteers helped bring hands-on learning to life. Since 1976, BestPrep has served 1.8 million students across Minnesota.


While retirement is on Kaitz’s radar, and a succession plan is in place, it’s not imminent. “It’s been kind of funny—the word ‘succession’ comes at me all the time because of my age, because of my longevity,” he says. “It always seems strange to me that those who theoretically have learned the most, the most experienced, are the ones we want to retire. To assume that people in their 70s in today’s world cannot be effective is really misplaced … I absolutely have loved what I’ve done and it’s hard for me to imagine not doing it.”

Bob Kaitz was a 2020 honoree for 50 over 50.

Related Opportunities

Senior Manager, Finance and Operations
Great MN Schools
VIA Sheilah Kavaney
Supervised Parenting Monitor
FamilyWise Services
VIA MACC Staffing
Program Coordinator, Youth Tech + STEM
Pillsbury United Communities
VIA Human Resources
Systems Change Director
Prepare + Prosper
VIA M. Kathleen Murphy


Amy Overgaard Fenske
Amy Overgaard Fenske is a writer and editor based in Saint Paul. She loves the way stories can forge connections and foster understanding and is honored to be part of that narrative process. Her writing has been published in a variety of print and online publications, including Darling, Edina Magazine, Minnesota Monthly, MinnPost, and Pollen Midwest. Her mix of work also includes content marketing for a variety of brands and proofreading for The University of Minnesota Press.
Julie Van Grol
Julie Van Grol is an illustrator and instructor based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned her MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in 2014, and has since served as an adjunct faculty member at MCAD and St. Olaf College as well as full-time visiting faculty at MCAD. Julie has taught courses in both Liberal Arts and Design Departments, with course content including history, editorial illustration, decorative surface design, and professional practices.
In her illustration practice, Julie focuses on storytelling and the power of responsible representation. Her work spans from editorial to advertising to publishing, with clients including Quarto Publishing, AARP, St. Paul Public Library, Representative Ilhan Omar, and Minnesota Private Colleges Council.