5Point’s Dream Project sparks creativity, confidence for local students
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By awarding scholarship money to local students each year, 5Point aims to help students ignite their passions and follow their dreams
When Julie Kennedy founded the 5Point Film Festival, she knew she wanted to use the festival as a means to help inspire, educate and motivate young adults in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Dream Project evolved a few years later, in 2010, but it was very much a part of Kennedy’s original vision. She wanted to create a program for youth that embodied those 5 guiding principles, or “points,” for which the festival was founded: purpose, respect, commitment, humility and balance.
“I wanted to give back to high school kids in the valley, from Aspen to New Castle. I want to give them hope and trust that they can manifest whatever they want to manifest to make their dreams happen,” Kennedy said. “There’s nothing more empowering than the belief in the fact that you can make something out of nothing and go with it. That’s the juice — that’s what takes you all through your life.”
The Dream Project offers seven scholarships to students in the Roaring Fork Valley every year “who want to explore their personal boundaries while living their own best adventure.” The ambiguity in the project description language is part of the magic — it pushes students to think confidently and creatively.
“Society gets so caught up in what you’re supposed to be doing and what you’re told to be doing instead of, ‘no, this is what I want it to look like,’” Kennedy said. “So often, we adults and parents can often crush those dreams. I wanted to break that cookie-cutter mold and help kids find their souls in what they truly love. … The process alone is going to get them jump-started into really having the confidence to do just about anything they want.”
What’s in a dream?
Chloe Gonzales applied for the Dream Project in 2018 because she saw that 5Point was actively trying to help students pursue their dreams and better themselves. She applied with the idea to make a film about Abasolo, Mexico, the town where her family is from.
“I want future applicants to know that this changed my life for the better and that students shouldn’t be fearful of living out their passions. I feel like we grow up in a world where people my age are constantly being shut down because of their dreams,” Gonzales said. “These dreams should be supported and that’s something the Dream Project wants to elevate.”
Winning the scholarship changed her understanding not only of filmmaking, but also of her family’s culture and history.
“I made a short documentary for people to truly witness what life is like there. More importantly, I made it for myself to explore my ability in filmmaking and to understand my roots as a Mexican-American,” Gonzales said. “The project as a whole was incredible for me. Words cannot describe how much it’s allowed me to understand myself as a Chicana.”
Tracy Wilson has been director of the Dream Project for 5Point since 2014. In that time, she said the types of Dream Project scholarship applications received has expanded beyond projects centered around film or outdoor adventures.
“We’ll consider any project — whatever the adventure is for that person,” Wilson said.
Past Dream Project recipients have used their scholarship funds to do many diverse projects, from learning American Sign Language to creating a LBGTQ+ high school dance to restoring an antique car that one recipient inherited from his grandfather.
Projects that include some element of giving back to supporting a community are encouraged, but not necessarily required, Wilson said.
“The judges just want to see that there’s thought behind the project,” Wilson said. “Reach for things that maybe have been out of your capacity or you haven’t had the time to do. Even students whose projects don’t get selected, there’s a lot to be gained by going through the process.”
Students interested in applying should reach out to mentors to talk about their project ideas. Wilson, who is also a teacher at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, said she’s available to any student who needs support during the application process. If a student has a passion but isn’t sure how to turn that passion into a project, mentors can help.
“Supporting youth is important to us, because that’s where you can really light a fire in terms of caring about those passions,” Wilson said.
5Point keeps the application process simple by asking students who they are, what their dream is and what they need from 5Point to get there.
While students have total ownership of their projects, sometimes mentors can really help refine their visions.
Will Sardinsky, a Dream Project recipient in 2013, said he completed his application in just a couple of days thanks to help and advice he received after calling a few mentors. He was really into photography at the time but had never put together a cohesive project. After becoming more aware of Thompson Divide oil and gas lease issues and feeling passionate about protecting the area, he felt he could do a project that combined these two passions.
He said the application itself was relatively easy. He encourages students to apply, even if they think they don’t have enough time.
“Think about what kind of change you want to make and just formulate a project around that,” Sardinsky said. “You don’t need to have these big aspirations, but if there’s a change you want to make, reach out to some mentors and refine your idea.”
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