Telluride High School Class of 2018 graduated Friday, June 8. (Courtesy photo)


longstanding Telluride tradition was taken to the next level this past Monday night.  

Students received a record-setting $392,000.000 in scholarships.

Telluride’s Local Scholarship night — established by Danny Hirsch, and now organized by Telluride High School College Counselor, Karen Lavender — has traditionally seen an outpouring of generosity on the part of local organizations, businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations aimed at helping cover the gap between what high school graduates receive in financial aid, and the actual cost of the colleges and universities they wind up attending (a gap that has only grown in recent years).  

Even as the price of college has increased — along with the number of Telluride graduates (57 this year) — so, too, has the willingness of donors to step up and help our graduates make college affordable. Lavender, who took over the program in 2006, says that she has been “astonished at the way in which, year after year, our community has managed to step up and support our young people’s college aspirations — even as the costs of a higher education have become increasingly difficult to cover.”  

Many local events have sprung up over the years to support the scholarship program — from the Imogene Pass Run and the longstanding golf tournament that funds the Strokes of Genius scholarships to the wide range of fundraisers put on by Rotary and the Elks. 

Jennie Franks, of SPARKy productions, wrote and produced an original play addressing the trials and tribulations facing immigrant women in our community, the ticket sales seeded a significant scholarship aimed at supporting Latina seniors in their quest for a college degree. 

Last year, at the bequest of Joyce Johnston (wife of ‘Brother’ Al Johnston whom many will remember as a sidewalk philosopher, supporter of the Free Box and all around good soul), a new scholarship overseen by the Robert Korn Law Firm was established that this year saw $120,000 in renewable four-year scholarships distributed among 11 of the graduating seniors.  

New this year were $10,000 in scholarships awarded by MountainFilm for students studying film or environmental issues, along with four regional scholarships (valued at up to $15,000 a year for four years) funded by Laura Chang and Arnie Chavkin (one of this year’s recipients is a THS senior, Manolo Nieto).  

Other large scholarships were awarded by the Placerville and Telluride Volunteer Fire Departments, the Telluride Association of Realtors, Alpine Bank, Telski and TMVOA.

While Lavender says that these large grants — like the Man of La Mancha Scholarship underwritten by the Carston family/Just For Kids Foundation or the Neil Armstrong Scholarship Fund offered through the Telluride Foundation — allow some students to attend the college of their dreams rather than their “financial back-up,” she notes that even more modest grants can be critical in terms of allowing families to cover the sort of costs — books and supplies, housing, transportation, etc. — that aren’t included in basic tuition.  

She also appreciates the fact that so many of these scholarships memorialize members of our community who are no longer with us. “It’s a great way to promulgate the traditions of this community and the values of the people who have made it up over the years,” Lavender said. This year, scholarships were awarded in the memory of Nic Kyle, Austin Hiett, Elaine Fischer, Stephen Wald, Malcolm Goldie, Doris Ruffe, Yula Mae Anderson, Francis Warner, Tom Hale and Bob Saunders.  Past students Abel Palmer, Cody Simonian and Hoot Brown were honored, as were past teachers Judy Long, Noreen Morton, Jane Miller and Sally Siegel. 

“Our Local Scholarship night really establishes the bridge between old Telluride and new,” Lavender said.  “It’s nice to see these legacies from the past carry forward to benefit future generations.” 

Sara Kimble, THS Principal, expressed gratitude to those students who, absent urgent financial need, recused themselves from the program, which left 31 students receiving a share of close to $400,000 in scholarship monies. 

Those interested in participating in 2019’s Local Scholarship night are encouraged to contact Lavender at 369-7120 or at