Mountain Mayhem: Student Diplomacy Corps |

Mountain Mayhem: Student Diplomacy Corps

May Selby
Mountain Mayhem

Bush and Jamie Helzberg of Aspen hosted a reception at their home on Nov. 17, celebrating the impact and important work of Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC), a New York City-based organization that provides opportunities and scholarships for high school students from across the nation and around the world to access international education summer programs. As a result of these experiences, evidence shows that students are better prepared for college and have a deeper understanding of global issues.

It all began here in the Roaring Fork Valley (RFV) back in the fall of 2016, when Bush discussed the idea of bringing a summer study abroad scholarship program here and spoke with Tony Allen, the co-founder and executive director of SDC. “Tony told me that I would need a local organization that works with youth to nominate students and I immediately thought of The Buddy Program,” Bush explained. After meeting with their executive director, Lindsay Lofaro, and gaining their interest and support, the RFV program was started. It has since expanded to also include Roaring Fork Pre-Collegiate and The Aspen Institute with all three organizations nominating participants for SDC’s program. The first summer, six RFV students participated; in 2018, there were 12; and this past summer there were 15.

The Helzbergs welcomed those 15 students from the four-week-long program in 2019 to their home to speak to their experiences from living with host families in different corners of the world — from Sicily to Spain to Mexico to New Zealand to Japan beyond. Also in attendance were their family members and mentors, as well as donors, representatives from the three local programs and Aspen High School’s college counselor. Partway through the evening, all of the students lined up for to recount memorable moments, talk about close connections formed with their host families and fellow students, share cultural impressions and more. As each one took turns telling their story, the room filled with an infectious energy and sense of wonder about the world.

“There are many more than 15 great candidates in the Roaring Fork Valley each year that would benefit from this experience,” Bush added. Each scholarship, which covers the program and airfare for a SDC participant, costs $7,500. All have been underwritten by a handful of generous local donors over the past three years.

“We hope to find more funders and provide this opportunity to more students from this valley,” he continued. “Over time, this could have a very significant and meaningful impact on educational outcomes locally.”

Anyone interested in contributing towards scholarships or learning more is welcome to email Bush Helzberg at For further information on the program, visit

Aspen Times Weekly

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