Aspen Country Day to host first regional boarding school fair | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Country Day to host first regional boarding school fair

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Emily Rominger, left, and Gretchen Cole, the director of admissions, financial aid, and outplacement at the Aspen Country Day School, share a hug in front of Taft School, a boarding school in Watertown, Connecticut.

Just one week after hosting the largest college fair on the Western Slope, Aspen will be home to the first boarding school fair ever put on in the area.

The Aspen Country Day School will host its first Boarding School Fair on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the school. The event is free and open to the public. More than 45 schools will be in attendance, representing a wide range of boarding schools from around the nation.

Gretchen Cole grew up in Aspen and went to Country Day before attending Milton Academy, a boarding school in Boston. She's now the director of admissions, financial aid and outplacement at Country Day and is the driving force behind the boarding school fair.

Cole said there will be a wide variety of schools represented at the fair, including ski academies, rigorous academic schools, support schools and schools with an emphasis on sports as well as all-girl and all-boy schools.

"This is an overwhelmingly spectacular range of schools that will be here for the fair," she said.

When Cole talked about the advantages of attending a boarding school, she brought up how Thomas Jefferson talked about supporting the idea of a college environment that was conducive toward the exchange of ideas 24/7 in a residential community.

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Cole said she sees the same advantages at a boarding school.

"It's a constant opportunity for a sharing of ideas and an academic experience," she said. "You get that simultaneously with citizenship-building and accountability — all the things you would find in a college, but this is happening at a more formative time in one's life. You're in a dorm but don't have the same freedom you have in college. You're sort of required to build a family community with your fellow students and your teachers. From a character standpoint, independence is fostered, which does nothing but prepare you for college and advocating for yourself."

Cole has helped families throughout the Western Slope that haven't had access to boarding school counseling or placement representatives to find the right avenues to access information about the schools.

"Clearly there's a place for this fair to be shared as a possibility for a school choice," she said.

Emily Rominger is a senior at Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. She grew up in Basalt and attended Country Day before enrolling at Taft as a ninth-grader.

Rominger said choosing Taft and attending a boarding school was the best decision of her life.

"I have been so happy at Taft," she said. "The school and the people here have exceeded my expectations. The learning environment is incredible. The teachers are very supportive, and they challenge us."

Rominger said she recalls being homesick when she first arrived at Taft, but the teachers and her peers understood and helped her through the first few months.

"At Taft, the teachers become your parents, and your friends become your family," Rominger said. "It really creates an inclusive atmosphere. Basalt will always be my home, but Taft feels like a second home."

According to Carolyn Hines, the director of communications and alumni relations at Country Day, this will be the first boarding school fair ever held on the Western Slope.

She said Country Day has many graduates at boarding schools and that Aspen has a higher percentage of kids at boarding schools than most areas in the United States.

"Families here in Aspen are very education-savvy," Hines said. "They're looking for the best experience for their kids and aren't willing to limit themselves geographically. They often search far and wide for the school that's the right fit."

Both Cole and Hines have children currently attending boarding schools. They said the image of a boarding school being strictly for troubled students or being totally elitist is archaic and misleading. Both said their children are having much more fun than they expected.

"That perception is easily mitigated once you walk onto the campus and really get to know the school," Hines said. "Most campuses are remarkably diverse socioeconomically, with gender balance and diversity of races."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com