Aspen Times Weekly story: Aspen students take the Big Apple

Jeanne McGovernAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado
Cover by Afton GroepperContributed photo

ASPEN – The trip’s title, “NYC Study Tour of Business,” doesn’t do the experience justice. But really, how can you boil down into just a few words a week-long trip to the Big Apple, especially when that trip includes everything from meetings with high-powered executives to eating ethnic food and standing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to walking across the Brooklyn Bridge?Simply put, you can’t. But for Aspen High students Nick Belinski, Nevada Crandall, Matteo Garofalo, Maggie Ryan, Luke Seamans and Annabelle Wilcox, that was the task before them on a recent evening.”I told the kids that there was going to be able to take away something from everything they did, everyone they talked to – and it was their job to find that something,” said Aspen High School business teacher Dave Connaroe, who had led the Reese Henry NYC Study Tour of Business trip since its inception three years ago. “I think what they discovered is amazing.”Indeed, statements like “never seen anything like it,” “follow your passion” and “keep your options open” sprang from the students’ mouths as they described their experience during a post-trip dinner and slide show at the Pine Creek Cookhouse (hosted by the Wilcox family, whose daughter Annabelle was on the trip). Connaroe – who described the kids as a “diverse group. … We’ve got the jocks and the geeks, … a good, nice balance” – used similar words to describe the trip.At its core, the Reese Henry NYC Study Tour of Business was as much about the experience as it was about the business. Reading the students’ journals and scanning through their pictures tells the story better than any news reporting ever could. But what those scrapbook memories don’t tell is how this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came to pass for these Aspen High students.

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For Reese Henry & Co., launching the NYC Study Tour of Business was a natural fit. Under the tutelage of the company’s founding father – Reese Henry, who is long retired and living in Grand Junction – the Roaring Fork Valley accounting firm has been deeply involved in the community since its inception.”Reese felt strongly that you give back to your community,” said Peter Van Domelen, managing partner of Reese Henry. “He ingrained in all of us this idea of philanthropy.”Toward that end, Henry launched a scholarship program some two decades ago. And while successful, Van Domelen and his colleagues thought there might be another – perhaps better – way to affect the lives of local youth.”We wanted to figure out a way to better leverage those dollars,” said Van Domelen, an Aspen High grad himself. “We wanted to find a way to impact more than just one student a year.”So Reese Henry & Co. created the NYC Study Tour of Business. By tapping into its client base and community contacts, the company has crafted an all-expenses-paid, weeklong trip to New York City for a group of local kids. Students are selected based on essays they submit, creating a diverse traveling group.The goal, according to Van Domelen, is to let these students experience firsthand what the real world of business is all about and how they might fit into it.”We design these tours to offer a breadth of experiences, as we want these kids to really understand – in a tangible way – what is out there for them,” he explained, noting the importance of offering such an experience before kids head off to college rather than after they’ve begun their journey into the work force. “We want them to come away having learned something about the business world and themselves.”Beyond that, though, the hope is that these students will share what they learned with their peers. And, for his part, Conarroe also hopes other schools and communities will come together to offer such experiences.”This is one of those things that makes Aspen so unique, but it’s also something that can be done anywhere, at any school,” he said. “Partnerships can be formed between businesses and the schools if you have people who want to make it happen.”From experience, I can tell you that the rewards are well worth the effort.”


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