Program for first-generation, college-bound grads from Basalt gets $250,000 boost |

Program for first-generation, college-bound grads from Basalt gets $250,000 boost

Staff report
Students celebrate with the traditional cap toss to close out the Basalt High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 1, 2019, on the BHS football field. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A $250,000 donation will allow the Basalt Education Foundation to establish an endowment for college scholarships for first-generation, college-bound graduates of Basalt High School.

Two anonymous donors provided the donation, the Basalt Education Foundation announced Monday. It was facilitated by Steve and Lee Rittvo, who have been active in the foundation and a pre-collegiate mentoring program at the school.

The donations will be invested to generate funds to annually award one BHS graduate the Saul Michael Rittvo Endowed Scholarship for as many as five years, according to the foundation. The student must be the first in his or her family to attend college.

“It was a sincere pleasure to be able to put this donation together,” Steve Rittvo said in a statement. “It allows Lee and I to accomplish two significant goals: ensuring that there is an ongoing flow of funds to support first generation college students and having something meaningful established in memory of our son.”

The Basalt Education Foundation started the scholarship for first-generation college attendees in 2015. It has awarded 56 students with scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. The $250,000 donation was labeled a “game-changer” for the effort.

“With this endowment, BEF can support first-generation college students from Basalt in perpetuity — a new hope for so many young people to raise their own prospects as well as those of their families and our whole community,” said Lenor Leeds, chair of the fundraising committee.

The Rittvos also have pledged a $25,000 donation to the BEF Scholarship Program if matching donations are raised from the community. “The community matching funds will support a range of initiatives at Basalt schools,” the foundation said.

Matching donations must be made before Taste of Basalt, the foundation’s annual fundraiser. It will take place Nov. 7 this year.

To donate to the BEF Scholarship Program or general programming in Basalt, contact Scholarship Committee Chairs Kristen Maley at 970-948-1605 or Dan Markoya at 970-704-3176 or visit