Aspen community invests in high school seniors future
Nearly 50 local businesses, foundations and philanthropists invested in the education and future of more than 100 Aspen High School seniors — granting a total $380,000 in college scholarships — as part of the annual Aspen High School Scholarship and Awards Ceremony on Thursday evening.
“When people feel like they have people behind them, that’s really powerful,” said Aspen High School college counselor Kathy Klug. “And when you feel like you have a whole town behind you — the ‘wow’ factor is always there, and this is my 20-something year doing this.”
One group that especially stood out at this year’s scholarship ceremony was the Aspen Elks Lodge, which donated $106,000 — nearly a third of the total scholarship fund — in the form of 29 scholarships.
Seniors received scholarships on the basis of merit as well as financial need, Klug said.
“The beauty is, sometimes those are one in the same,” Klug said, referring to students who qualify for both two types of scholarships. “It’s often not an either/or scenario.”
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The reality is that more Aspen High School students need more help paying for college than people would like to think, she said.
“We like to think people are setting aside money for college,” Klug said. “But life gets in the way. Things happen.”
The merit-based scholarships recognized a variety of traits, skills and accomplishments, including students’ character, volunteer work, academic performance and athletic ability.
Aspen High School parent Allison Daily said she appreciates that the school and community honor who the child is on the inside in addition to academic and athletic achievements.
“It’s amazing what our community does to support our kids going to school,” Daily said.
A community member nominated Daily’s son, Burke, for a scholarship that recognized his contributions to his school and the community.
This year’s scholarship ceremony set the record for most amount of money awarded to Aspen High School, Klug said.
Klug said it wasn’t long ago that she remembers being in awe of the Aspen community’s quarter-million dollar contribution to funding the high school seniors’ college educations.
Before presenting six high school students with the Glah Family Opportunity Awards, Aspen Board of Education Treasurer Bob Glah joked that he hopes funding for the scholarship program continues to increase at the rate of college tuition.
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The Aspen Filmfest program, which opens Tuesday night with the Jessica Chastain-led drama “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” is a tribute to the founder, Ellen Kohner Hunt. The festival will also recognize the memory of Hunt with “Ellenfest” on Thursday.