True North

True North scholar David Almaraz on campus at Boulder’s University of Colorado. (Courtesy Photo)

True North Youth Program is offering three new scholarships, which will be awarded to graduating seniors from Norwood, Nucla and Telluride high schools, according to a news release.

This year, there is a new Food Service Industry Scholarship for students who have experience working in the food industry. The scholarship was made possible by Durfee Day, the Day Family and La Marmotte Restaurant in memory of Kevin Doyle.

Then there’s the True North Scholarship, which is open to students who have any kind of work history, whether through a job, internship or apprenticeship.

“This scholarship was created as a result of the generous support of individual donors, and a letter of support from the San Miguel County commissioners, which enabled us to apply for matching funds from the state.” True North Executive Director Vivian Russell said.

In December, longtime Norwood local William R. Garing passed away and bequeathed some of his estate toward a scholarship. Garing’s good friend, John Mansfield, generously fulfilled his wishes and worked with True North to create the William R. Garing Memorial Scholarship for graduating seniors of Norwood High School.

True North has awarded $42,000 in scholarships to 11 teens in the last four years. There are plans to award another $12,000 in scholarships this graduation season. The majority of the scholarship funding thus far has been provided by a multitude of individual donations.

“Since 2014, True North staff and volunteers have helped regional teens to access over $2.5 million in scholarships and financial aid” programs and development director Loren Knobbe said.

She added that staff and volunteers work each week across three school districts under True North’s College and Career Readiness program, receiving support from the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative. True North staff also takes guidance from college counselors, as well as the AVID senior class at Telluride High School.

True North scholarships provide local students an opportunity to pursue their college dreams, as past recipients are currently attending school throughout the country.

David Almaraz, a Telluride graduate and first generation college student, was awarded the Skyler Kelly Memorial Scholarship in 2019. He said he is enjoying his second year at the University of Colorado in Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

When asked if he had any advice for incoming freshmen, he said, "Don't get too comfortable. Try new things, acclimate and then repeat."

Similarly, Grace Ringstad, a 2020 Telluride High School graduate, is enjoying life on the Boulder campus and loving her film classes.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned here is to come in open-minded,” she said. “You’re also never stuck in your major as a freshman, so if you decide that it isn’t working for you, talk to your advisor and set up a schedule that does.”

In Grand Junction, Norwood High School Class of 2020 graduate Jacob Gordon is now in his second semester at Western Colorado Community College in working toward a degree in agricultural sciences. Gordon said that he enjoys any classes that are in-person and advises next year’s freshmen to “always do your homework and be an advocate for yourself.”

Outside of Colorado, Jonah Jodlowski, a recent Telluride graduate, is currently in his second semester studying business at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

“Take advantage of every opportunity your first year ... spread your wings. You never know what you will enjoy doing,” he said.

After graduatin from Norwood High School, Jessica Barkemeyer decide to leave her home state to attend Purdue University in Indiana, where she is majoring in communications.

“This semester was completely turned upside down because of COVID, but my school still did a good job of making sure I had social and professional opportunities for growth,” Barkemeyer said.

Rick Williams, Norwood High School’s college counselor, commended True North for their efforts.

“True North is a wonderful asset for our school and our kids. We appreciate all that they do,” he said.

College prep and scholarships are just one component of True North’s year-round youth development programs, which became a critical social connection for many teens who were otherwise relegated to online learning and socializing throughout the pandemic. One mother of a Telluride teen recently reported that True North had been integral in providing social connection for her daughter.

Over the past year, True North adapted by implementing board-approved COVID protocols — safety measures that aligned with the public health regulations — so group programming could continue. Since March 2020, True North teens have participated in 784 hours of out-of-school group activities and youth development programs.

With the heightened issue of food insecurity during the pandemic, True North focused much of it’s community service programs on collaborating with food banks. True North students volunteered 427 hours helping out at regional community food banks, including raising money for Telluride Food Pantry, distributing food and setting up new shelving at the Norwood Food Bank, and painting the fence at the West End Family Link.

Loneliness and isolation have been identified by many mental health experts as one of the key risk-factors leading to substance abuse, depression and other mental health disorders, and these issues have been especially compounded for teenagers by the pandemic and the transition to and from online learning.

True North’s programs have addressed such risk factors by providing hundreds of hours of social activities, group programming, peer and adult mentorship, and frequent communication throughout the pandemic.

Over the past year, True North engaged over 150 students from Telluride, Norwood and Nucla high schools in positive youth development programs. True North also offered school-based programming throughout the year, as well as matched students with volunteer academic tutors.

“Our total combined student engagement time since March 2020 is 1,249 hours and counting,” Knobbe said.

Russell added, “During these stressful times, we aim to bring students joy through connection and collaboration, as well as support them in establishing a framework for their future after high school.”

In February, True North opened a secondary office and teen drop-in space at the Collective Mine in Naturita. Thanks to a partnership facilitated by True North’s West End coordinator Leslie Ament, students are also currently painting trash can barrels for Naturita’s Little Nature Park.

This month, True North is offering the fourth annual Teen Summer Jobs Fair, sponsored by Alpine Bank. Teens seeking a summer job, as well as employers who are seeking to hire teens for summer employment, are encouraged to register for the event. High school students can also participate in the workshop series. The first workshop, offered via Zoom Wednesday, covers job etiquette and common forms, taught by Telski’s Executive Director of Human Resources Heather Young. Then Carla Reams of Skillful West End present Friday in covering resume writing. Teens then have a chance to practice their interview skills and get feedback from professionals on April 28. To sign up for the workshops, participants must register at truenorthyouthprogram.org/jobsfair.

True North is funded by individual donors as well as a number of local and statewide foundations, including the Telluride Foundation, West End Pay it Forward Trust, Just for Kids Foundation, Town of Telluride CCAASE, Town of Mountain Village, San Miguel County, Colorado Health Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, AV Hunter Trust, Anschutz Foundation, Todd W, Hoffman Foundation, and others. For more information on the Jobs Fair, scholarships, or any of True North’s programs, visit truenorthyouthprogram.org.