BASALT - Like most school administrators, Basalt High School Principal Dave Schmid has high hopes for the students at his school.
"What I want is for every kid to leave our school with some kind of post-secondary or career plan," said Schmid, who took the helm at Basalt High this school year. "I want every one of our kids to feel worthy of this - to have the education and the knowledge to realize that they don't have to just settle for a 'job.'"
Toward that end, Basalt High recently hired two half-time college counselors, who together guide students through the complicated path of post-secondary education and career planning.
"I believe our kids should have a choice, and our job is to present them with a lot of different options and opportunities," Schmid said. "Our school is very diverse, and the job of a college counselor isn't like that of a regular school counselor.
"It took a lot of searching to find the right people for this job."
Those "right" people are Susan Walter, who also works part time in the Aspen High School college counseling department, and Carolyn Williams, who worked as college counselor at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale before running her own college-counseling business.
"They know the ins and outs of the application process, financial aid and the hundreds and thousands of different schools and opportunities available to our kids," Schmid said. "This is something most high school counselors don't know or don't have the time to do given all the other demands of their jobs."
The college-counselor position was made possible through a three-year grant from the Aspen Community Foundation as part of its Cradle to Career effort, which is a long-term initiative focused on increasing the number of local children who are ready for kindergarten and who graduate from high school prepared for college or a career.
The grant, which Basalt High School applied for over the summer, is for $75,000 this year, $65,000 next year and $50,000 in its final year.
"With the addition of a dedicated college counselor, students at Basalt High School will be further equipped with an education that gives them choices about their future. Providing resources and guidance for exploring options after high school and realizing a post-secondary plan for college or career is a cornerstone of Aspen Community Foundation's Cradle to Career Partnership," said Tamara Tormohlen, executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation, adding that in 2006, the foundation helped establish a college counselor at Aspen High School. "We are delighted to see that model expand into the Roaring Fork School District."
In Basalt, the hope is that the school will be able to cover the costs itself after the granting period is over.
"It needs to be sustainable," Schmid said. "My greatest hope is that the school district and the school community will recognize just how worthwhile this is and figure out a way to continue to fund it."
Basalt High currently has 380 students enrolled, about 80 of whom are seniors. Schmid said Walter and Williams are currently focusing their work on the senior class, as many colleges' early-application deadlines are approaching. After that, they will extend their reach to other students as well as parents and the greater Basalt High community.
"Our community deserves to have students who graduate with a solid plan for their future," he said. "I believe they will see that college counselors can help provide that."