Jadin Scott (Photo courtesy of Alicia Pfaff)

When local eighth-grader Lana Kenworthy won a statewide art competition earlier this month, she was surprised.

“I’ve always just done art for fun,” she said.

Because her mother used to work at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, she’s taken lots of art classes over the years. Early on, she enjoyed coloring with markers. Then she started working with leather, crafting saddles and bridles for her model horses, and lately, she’s become creative with a sewing machine.

While Telluride art teacher Jessica Gennari, who has taught students in grades 4-8 for the past four years, submits student work to the Colorado Association School Board (CASB) program annually, this is the first time a student from the district has won a CASB K-12 Blue Ribbon Award.

“Students from every Colorado school participate in this competition, with one Blue Ribbon awarded to the elementary, middle and high school levels,” she said.

Using acrylic paint, Kenworthy created the winning piece in response to a class assignment focusing on trees.

“(Gennari) told us about this technique for how to paint spruce trees and how to make them look realistic,” Kenworthy explained. “And we had to paint those trees with a night sky.”

Gennari said Kenworthy’s painting displays “a stillness, yet vibrancy of color” revealing “a very refined craftsmanship and beautiful brush technique.”

“Lana demonstrates an incredible attention to detail,” Gennari added. “She has a natural design sense and sensibility for a successful composition. Her work displays a quality that really stands out.”

Earlier this fall, Telluride senior Jadin Scott was recognized as a National Merit Semifinalist, one of approximately 16,000 such students from across the country. High school students who meet requirements enter the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the PSAT, usually as juniors. Of the 1.5 million entrants, 50,000 with the highest PSAT scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. To be considered as a semifinalist, a student's scores on the PSAT must land in the top 1 percent of test-takers in that student's state.

“I have very high academic standards for myself, so I was inherently hoping to score well,” Scott said. “But I didn’t have the specific goal of becoming a National Merit Scholar in mind.”

Last year, Ella Jansen was recognized as National Merit Commended Scholar, and this fall, senior Gabriel Lynch was also recognized as a National Merit Commended Scholar.

Rex Lybrand, in his first year as the high school’s college counselor, has been a teacher in the district since 2006.

“I know the kids very well. Many of these students I taught in ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade in courses such as health, chemistry, AP chemistry or AP environmental science, as well as having them in junior seminar or senior seminar this year,” he said. “With this deeper knowledge of student strengths, I am able to assist them in college choices and career paths.”

The COVID pandemic, he explained, has hastened the removal of the SAT/ACT requirement for colleges, so that these standardized tests have become “optional” as admissions criteria, leading to a “tremendous upwelling of applications to ‘reach’ schools, as many students otherwise fit the admission criteria based on GPA or rigor, like the number and type of AP courses.”

A “reach” school is a college or university with a 20-30 percent acceptance rate.

Lybrand added that Scott has been on an “Advanced Learning Plan” throughout her school career.

“Jadin is an engaged citizen and intellectual powerhouse who soaks in information like a sponge,” he said. “Jadin has always gravitated to very sophisticated discussions about world events. I have seen Jadin at speaking events like Mountainfilm, TEDx, Telluride Science Research Center, Telluride Film Festival, Original Thinkers, you name it. Jadin’s near-perfect grades — nine AP courses and high scores on standardized tests — make her a strong candidate for rigorous collegiate work.”

Scott, who has now taken the SAT three times, will go on to compete for one of 7,500 scholarships totaling $30 million. According to the scholarship program, about 95 percent of students will make it to the finalist round and about half of all finalists will win a scholarship.

“I have completed the application process for becoming a finalist, which is similar to a college application and includes an essay, transcript, letters of recommendation and a SAT score that confirms that my high PSAT score wasn’t just a product of lucky guessing.”

With an interest in pursuing a degree in environmental studies or policy, Scott is applying to an array of colleges, including Dartmouth, Cornell, Middlebury and the University of Virginia.

“This designation will likely increase my odds of being accepted into the highly competitive schools I hope to be admitted to,” she said. “It has also given me the confidence boost to expand my boundaries and apply to more reach schools.”

By February, semifinalists will be notified whether they have advanced to the finalist round.