Donation allows Aspen Elementary School to add second counselor

Aspen Elementary School.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Aspen Education Foundation has added a second counselor to Aspen Elementary School, thanks to a donation from private donors Katya and Zach Sternberg.

“We are big fans of Paul and Cynthia’s efforts at the Aspen Education Foundation. During the worst of COVID, we funded their very effective efforts to provide food to locals in need and asked where else we could help” the Sternbergs wrote in an email.

They spent time in Aspen during COVID but have since returned to New York; they do not have any children in the Aspen school district area. They declined to answer questions about what prompted them to donate, why in this way, their connections to Aspen or even whether they planned to return.

The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 students per one counselor in schools. With the addition of the new counselor, Aspen Elementary School will be below this ratio.

“The positive downstream effects of a child in need having access to a counselor early in life are well-researched. The pandemic brought about increased stress in so many homes and, as a result, extra demand for mental-health support. We thought it was very forward thinking of AEF to identify this specific and long-term need, and we couldn’t have been happier to help support this role,” they wrote.

Local fundraising allows the foundation to support a second counselor in Aspen Middle School each year. Thanks to the Sternbergs and their commitment to mental health in schools, Aspen Elementary School is equipped to provide counseling services to the students. The family will fund the counselor for three years.

“Over the last several years, AEF has increasingly worked hand-in-hand with the school administration to fill in funding gaps to support programs that exist outside of the traditional budget,” said Paul Sohn, the chairman of the Board of Directors for the Aspen Education Foundation in a press release. “One thing we have heard since the pandemic began was the increasing mental-health stress on our student body.  We are excited that we have generous community members such as Zach and Katya who have stepped up to fill such an acute need in our community.”