Colorado students descend on Aspen Sunday for annual College Fair |

Colorado students descend on Aspen Sunday for annual College Fair

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The parking lot at the middle school is barricaded off for the annual college fair on Sunday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |


What: 2016 Colorado Western Slope College Fair

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Aspen School District campus

Admission: Free

For more information, visit

At 7:30 a.m. in Aspen High School’s gym — more than 100 parents are pouring hot coffee and handing out bagels, croissants and other breakfast goods to hundreds of students — but it’s not their children these Aspen parents are serving.

It’s the students of Animas High School in Durango, who traveled nearly 300 miles on a school bus through windy mountain passes and spent the night curled up in sleeping bags on the gym floor for one reason: to be a part of the Colorado Western Slope College Fair.

Animas High School is one of 82 high schools across the Western Slope that College Outreach, the Aspen-based nonprofit organization that hosts the college fair, invites each year.

Aspen High School college counselor Kathy Klug co-founded College Outreach and the college fair, which is held annually at the high school, 12 years ago.

It was that same year Aspen High School created its college counseling position that Klug, who had served as an English teacher at the high school for 11 years, took over.

In its inaugural year, 130 of the 200 colleges that College Outreach invited to the fair attended, said Klug, which she called “an incredible” turnout.

Six hundred students from high schools located throughout the Western Slope participated in the first college fair, Klug said.

Last year, around 2,000 students participated in the Colorado Western Slope College Fair, said College Outreach co-director Kelly Doherty, noting that about the same number is expected at this year’s event.

“We have a spectacular community of willing volunteers who sacrifice their time and energy to help students on the Western Slope,” she said. “Not just our students, but all students.”

Doherty said the college fair would not be possible without the tireless work of its volunteers, who altogether form more than 20 different committees — including workshop planning, general marketing, student registration, parking, signage, and tent set up — to put on the show.

“We want all students to imagine the possibility of college,” she said.

Approximately 250 admission officers from a diverse range of schools — from small liberal art colleges, military academies and large state schools to Ivy League universities and community colleges — are expected at the 2016 Colorado Western Slope College Fair.

The college fair also will feature 35 workshops across three sessions from information on financial aid to “Colleges that change lives.”

Much like the annual college fair, the college counseling scene at Aspen High School has evolved tenfold since its 2004 inception.

Looking back at the college process 12 years ago and how it has progressed, Klug said, “We had, at Aspen High School, a majority of the class distributed to a handful of colleges primarily in Colorado. And that’s changed dramatically.”

Today, our kids are all over, Klug said, pointing to a colorful map of the U.S. in her office that shows where students in the high school’s most recent graduating class matriculated.

The distribution map reveals that the class of 2016 is spread across approximately 30 U.S. states and two countries, Scotland and Panama.

“Aspen High School serves as a model for what can be done,” Doherty said. “And we’re trying to share that with the Western Slope.”

For more information about the Colorado Western Slope College Fair or how to become a volunteer, visit