Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It’s that time of year again when Aspen hosts its biggest special event of the year, the Western Slope College Fair. No, the 200 or so college representatives who show up for it don’t max out our bed base. Not many people are arrested during it. Nobody is going to be camping in the park. The thousands of students and their parents who attend the Fair don’t noticeably pump up the city’s sales taxes revenues. There are no rock concerts, street dances, or firework extravaganzas planned.

So, you ask, how great can this thing be? Well, how does this grab you: The Fair will introduce our children to a wide variety of colleges, show off our incredible educational facilities, and begin the process of engaging our kids with their futures. Not bad. And to think, all you got from the Labor Day Jazz Festival was a pounding head-ache and slight ringing in your ears that might indicate some degree of permanent hearing loss. Go ahead and tell me now which local event is a bigger deal than the College Fair, and don’t you dare say the Saturday Farmers’ Market (no offense to airbrush T-shirt artists and assemblers of polished rock jewelry intended).

In the spirit of the event, I caught up with Dr. Kathy Klug, college adviser at Aspen High School and the event’s perpetually renewable human energy source. The only chance I had of keeping up with her was by e-mail, and even that taxed my stamina.

RM: Just because you hold my children’s educational futures in your hand, I’m not going easy on you: It seems that with the Great Recession the main question for many parents may have shifted from “How do I get my kid into a prestigious private university?” to “Holy Crap! Do I really want my kid to get accepted into a very expensive private university and then have to postpone retirement until I’m 84 to pay for it?” What are your thoughts?

KK: My kids are graduated! Thank God!

RM: And you’re still committed to this? That’s remarkable. What about for people still in the thick of it?

KK: “Know thyself,” and know the family capacity to “want to pay” and “ability to pay.” There is a huge energy behind parents who want to gather enough resources for a college education that is their child’s dream and “fit.” These parents find a way. There is a sad converse set of parents who pay (mortgage, borrow, etc.) because they feel it is cool to say, “My son is attending X Prestigious U.” As a counselor, I suggest that a student discover an ideal fit and match college and a financial family fit college too. The Fair is a safe way to go college shopping for colleges that are a perfect fit and match for the student and a financial fit for the family.

RM: As a community we have spent tens of millions of dollars on schools, educators, and athletic facilities for the benefit of our children. The College Fair attracts hundreds of college representatives to our beautiful town, we show them a good time and let them experience firsthand our incredible community and investment in education so that when they see an Aspen kid’s name on an application they say, “Wow, we’d really like to have that kid at our school.” It seems to me that this is an extremely cost-effective way of multiplying the bang for our education bucks. Is the magic really that simple?

KK: It is both selfish and selfless in its strategy.

RM: Alright, already. Now might be a good time to remind you that you are not running for political office here…or, are you? My point is that this is a great thing for Aspen, right?

KK: Yes, I want home field advantage. I also work tirelessly for a year with 50 volunteers to put this fair on for the ENTIRE Western Slope of Colorado (59 high schools) and use it as a way to engage kids in possibility-thinking about their futures. It is a gift for kids to engage in this kind of hope. There is a college for everyone and I want to be part of creating a “college-going culture” for every student in the rural public schools of the Western Slope.

RM: Fair enough, if you’ll pardon the expression. So, what are your needs from parents, students, and the community-at-large to keep the College Fair going?

KK: Keep having bright, motivated, life-long learners who are intellectually curious, connected to their community, school, and families, authentic in their demeanor and personalities, and who want to engage in rigorous and creative learning! I have job security with each rising group of Western Slope kids who want a path to their future that means better employment, a chance to own a home, have health coverage and the ability to sustain a family; a college education points in the direction of better employment and civic engagement.

RM: Wow! I feel like I should be thanking you for saying that. …What the heck, “Thanks!” Now then, what about Aspen Education Foundation (AEF)? My guess is that they are involved financially and need our support for this.

KK: Yes! And, they are the principle funds behind the whole (AHS) college counseling department, too!

RM: So, could there possibly be anything else we need to know about the College Fair?

KK: It is FREE! Just be there! Sunday, Oct. 3, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. What a chance to engage in “possibility thinking,” attend workshops, and support a college-going culture on the Western Slope. Certainly every kid within driving distance should get out of bed and take advantage of this chance to advocate for self in front of over 200 colleges and universities.

RM: Great! Now for the big question: Every year I get assigned to parking patrol. Will you let me do something else this year?

KK: You are so good at scaring the soccer-hockey dad/mom who thinks he/she has a right to park next to the door and just drop in for a minute…

RM: I take that as a “no.”

KK: Yep.


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