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Environmental work earns teens grants from Skico

Aspen Times Staff Report

Four Roaring Fork Valley students each received a $5,000 scholarship Monday through the Aspen Skiing Co.’s newly created Environmental Scholarship Program.

The Skico has been giving scholarships for three years, but this is the first time its focus has been on the environment.

“The program rewards high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding environmental stewardship through research, hands-on work, partnerships with local organizations or other environmental initiatives,” said a statement from the Skico.

The scholarship program awards college scholarships to one student from each of the Roaring Fork area high schools: Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork High in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

The winners were Sara Beth Berk of Aspen High School; Mollie Meredith of Basalt High School; Heidi Overbeck of Glenwood High School; and Ellie Piffer of Carbondale’s Roaring Fork High School.

Berk’s project involved a study and analysis of water-pollution issues in the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied the issues, interviewed experts, suggested solutions and described her involvement with local environmental groups.

Berk documented her findings in a book called “The Water Battle, It Isn’t So Clear Anymore” and presented a very extensive research paper.

This fall, Berk will attend Colorado State University.

Meredith undertook a project called, “Weed Management at Rock Bottom Ranch.”

Rock Bottom Ranch is a 115-acre tract on the Roaring Fork River between Basalt and Carbondale. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies recently purchased this parcel of land that is overrun with weeds. Invasive weeds, particularly thistle, are a major problem in the Roaring Fork Valley. Meredith planned and organized a trip for an eighth-grade class from the Waldorf School to participate in an ecology workshop and weed-control project.

Meredith plans to attend the University of Northern Colorado.

Overbeck’s project, called “The Paint Drop,” was an attempt to implement a program of recycling used paint since it is a hazardous waste.

Overbeck researched paint toxicity and tried to organize a collection center for old paint at Construction Junction in Carbondale. The site she chose was unable to accommodate the used paint, but Overbeck did not give up. She is now attempting to organize “The Paint Drop” as an entirely volunteer student-run center.

Her project is an example of how hard work, perseverance and minor failures can lead to success. Overbeck will keep the Skico’s Environmental Foundation posted on the progress of the “The Paint Drop.”

Overbeck will attend Colorado College this fall and plans to major in environmental studies and English.

Piffer’s project was the Roaring Fork River Clean-up Day. She organized a volunteer river cleanup day scheduled for Tuesday, June 20. Through Piffer’s efforts, Roaring Fork Outfitters contributed to the cause by donating six rafts, guides and additional helpers. She also arranged for BFI to donate trash bags and dumpsters.

Piffer plans to study business administration at Colorado State University.

The four students will formally receive their scholarships and awards at a ceremony June 19, at 11 a.m. at the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza. They will be presented by Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell.

“Our hope is that this scholarship will foster creative environmentalism among young people, encourage related work in college and beyond, improve and protect the environment, and draw attention to important causes,” said O’Donnell in a statement.

“We want to incentivize projects locally. The scholarship program is a creative way to leverage change and help local students at the same time,” O’Donnell continued. “I am very impressed with the ingenuity and enthusiasm these young women demonstrated.”


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