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From college fair to farewell

Aspen High seniors Katrina DeVore, left, Mary Daniel, Nina Sivess, Elise Fornell and Carly Magill will soon head off to college in such locales as New York, San Francisco and Savannah, Ga. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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When 135 graduate from Aspen High School on May 27 at the Aspen Music Festival Tent, many of them will do so with a little extra help, compared to earlier grads, in determining their next step in life.That help came in the form of last year’s first-ever Western Slope College Fair, on Oct. 2 at Aspen High School. AHS college counselor Kathy Klug and Carolyn Williams at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale organized the event.The college fair’s primary financial support was a $10,000 grant from Alpine Bank, which has branches in more than 30 of the Western Slope communities participating in the fair, although Klug said she is seeking another sponsor to help defray the costs of this year’s fair.

Recent interviews with parents and students alike yielded nothing but positive feelings about the fair, which attracted representatives from 130 colleges and universities around the United States, and drew college-bound students from approximately 50 high schools around the Western Slope.For example, Annabelle Berklund had been planning to apply to Georgetown and Cornell before she attended last year’s College Fair. After that, she said, “I decided not to apply to either school,” because neither would have permitted her to double-major in economics and international business.But the school she’ll be attending next fall, Whitman College in Washington, does provide the double major she is interested in, a fact that Berklund learned while doing “sherpa” duty during the college fair and showing the Whitman representative around the school.

“It was nice to talk to reps and get our specific questions answered,” Berklund recalled, explaining that meeting with reps at the fair provided her with much more information than she was able to get off the Internet. Plus, she said, some of the reps were recent college graduates themselves, and so could relate more directly to local students’ concerns and interests than an older rep might.Another who attended the college fair, T.J. Hauser, will not be going to college in the fall, but has enlisted in the U.S. Navy instead. But he plans to go to college ultimately, with financial support from the federal government, and he said the college fair was a valuable tool.He said he got answers to “questions that you can’t get out of the books,” and he has been accepted to six colleges. The college fair helped him pick and choose among colleges that offered programs he was interested in, military and otherwise.



Asked why he is going into military service, Hauser replied, “because of the benefits and the experience … and I get to blow stuff up.””My favorite part was, you got to get a better idea of what student life was like … you can’t really get that out of a book or on the Internet,” said Ry Parry, who will attend the University of Colorado.The college fair helped Brittany Fortier, a basketball player who will be going to the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, sort through the various “letters of interest” she got from a number of colleges and universities, places she knew nothing about.

“I guess it was pretty helpful,” declared Eric Frazier, who will be attending Western State College in Gunnison, an assessment Fortier seconded.”It was very helpful getting your name out there, at least for me,” she said.Klug held a meeting Wednesday with some of the 35 or so parents who are on the committee organizing next fall’s college fair, scheduled for Oct. 8.




Next year’s fair, Klug said, is expected to attract a greater number of college and university reps, and students from as many as 60 Western Slope high schools. Some of the parents at the meeting said that such fairs are not just for juniors or seniors, as many believe.Christine Goldstein, for example, said she and her freshman son, Matt, went to last fall’s college fair and gained a lot of information and confidence regarding finding a college.”I think that’s the important thing, to start going to these things from the get-go,” she said.

Klug, who recently returned from one of her numerous trips around the country to visit potential participating colleges and universities, said that Western areas are being targeted for a variety of reasons, including the perception that the population of the West is growing while other areas of the country are shrinking.Aspen High School graduation starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, and will feature a commencement address by Dr. Bill Mitchell, a local pediatrician who brought many of the current crop of graduates into the world.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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