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Grassroots founder moves on

Sarah S. Chung

As of today, A Grassroots Aspen Experience will have to help disadvantaged youth without the day-to-day guidance of its founder and executive director, John Reid.

Stepping down as the head of Grassroots was a tough decision, said Reid, but the decade mark prompted a desire to tackle new challenges.

“You can’t do what we do at Grassroots for ten years without being really passionate about it,” Reid said. “But it was time to move on.”

Fifteen years ago, Reid moved here to become a member of the Gentleman of Aspen rugby team, but he didn’t forget his roots in the process. While learning how to ski, playing rugby, and working for an office supply store and the city, an idea blossomed.

Why not create a program to introduce financially disadvantaged children to the wonder of the mountains? When he couldn’t think of a good reason not to, A Grassroots Aspen Experience was born. The program began bringing children from across the country here to do just that.

“Having grown up in a similar-type background, I was inspired to develop the program,” said Reid reflecting on how Aspen helped him overcome some hurdles he faced while growing up in the San Francisco/Oakland area. “The outdoor activities are merely the hook. Once they’re in the mountain setting, they have to delve deep and set some goals.”

The Grassroots program is divided into winter and summer sessions which incorporate activities like skiing and rock climbing with daily “rap sessions,” in which participants talk about their experiences both in Aspen and back home.

“It’s about self-esteem building, confidence building,” explained Grassroots’ program director Pat Noble. “It’s about getting the kids to realize they can do things they never thought they could.”

But far from being a one-shot deal, all participants are enrolled in at least two sessions and many return to become peer counselors.

Various Grassroots board members praised Reid’s “vision” and commitment to the program, but understood his desire to broaden his horizons. An offer has been made for new director and future plans are under way to expand the Grassroots program.

As for Reid, his first new challenge will be helping to organize the state’s first youth summit, which will host about 15,000 high school students from across Colorado. After that, Reid will open a consulting firm in Denver to guide youth-oriented nonprofit programs like Grassroots.

“This [the summit] is the first time students will have this kind of opportunity to express their concerns in their own words,” Reid said. “More than anything, I’ll miss the [Grassroots] kids, but I know what I’m doing will reach more kids than I could before.”


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