True North Youth Program is hosting a College and Career Conference Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with sessions taking place at Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library and Telluride Arts HQ. The event is free and open to the public, and is the first-ever event of its kind in our region, according to a news release.

The conference is geared toward high school students and young adults, as well as parents and educators. Attendees can expect a series of interactive and informative sessions addressing college preparatory topics such as: academic readiness, financial planning, ACT and SAT prep, essays and personal statements, scholarships, parental and student anxieties about college, and more. In addition, there will be many informative sessions and workshops for young people who wish to enter the workforce directly after high school, take a gap year or take an alternative path that does not include college, or apply for opportunities with the U.S. military, a service academy or ROTC.

Dr. Kathleen Klug, director of the Western Slope College Fair, which takes place in Aspen every October, will be giving a workshop titled, “Five Easy Pieces to Five Places.” Klug will help the participants develop the five tools needed for jobs, internships, military, college or trade school. Klug said parents and mentors especially are encouraged to attend her workshop, which contains information that can “empower any parent or mentor into a mini at-home college counselor.”

Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, will be giving a talk titled “At Colorado Mesa University, Less Really IS More.”  Dr. Greg Salsbury, president of Western Colorado University in Gunnison, will be giving a talk called “Finding the Right College for You.” Dr. Gary Ratcliff , director of the Colorado Mesa University’s Montrose campus, will be speaking about “Selecting a College and the First Year Experience.”  

University presidents are also being joined by luminaries from the media industry. Judy Muller, retired University of Southern California professor and former ABC news correspondent, along with her partner George Lewis, a former NBC news correspondent, will be giving a talk on “Falling Forward: take your time choosing a major and don’t be afraid of failure.”  

Attendees will want to arrive on time, as the day will kick off promptly at 10 a.m. with bagels, donuts and coffee from Baked in Telluride, and a presentation Nana Naisbitt, board chair of Chalkboard Dot Org, called “Financing College,” followed by her workshop on “How to Write your Personal Statement.”

Spanish interpretation services will be available for the keynote talks and panel discussions.

Representatives from Fort Lewis College, CMU Montrose campus and Colorado Mountain College will be hosting booths with information, as well as college swag. In addition, information on opportunities with Pinhead, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, ROTC and service academies will be available.

Three expert panel discussions will take place throughout the day. Rick Williams, Norwood college counselor, will moderate a panel discussion on “What Makes or Breaks a Scholarship Application.” Melissa Martinez of True North, who has an extensive background in the field of higher education, will lead the panel discussion on “Accessing Financial Aid for College” and Paul Reich, behavioral health program manager of Tri-County Health Network, has assembled an expert panel on “Mental Health in College.”

Representatives from Alpine Bank and Wells Fargo will be on hand to answer questions about saving for college and opening a 529 college savings plan. Marissa Lampe and other staff members from San Miguel Resource Center will host a presentation on “College Culture, Safety, and Resources.”

Erin Hollingsworth, teen librarian at Wilkinson Public Library, will be demonstrating useful tools available to patrons using the library’s database Learning Express, which offers practice tests for SAT, ACT, Accuplacer, as well as career exploration and resume building tools.

In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities for those who might not want to go to college at all, or who might take an alternate path toward their postsecondary education.

Regarding the subject of different pathways after high school, Jennifer Manhoff, former Telluride local who now works for AmeriCorps, Corporation for National and Community Service, will be hosting a presentation on how to “Engage in Service and Earn an Education Award During your Gap Year.”

For those who are not college bound, Alex Jones, Telluride High School guidance counselor, and Matt Lewis, True North board member, will be giving workshops on joining the workforce.

The conference organizing committee has been guided by Telluride local Susan Oupadia, a retired pathologist and former Peace Corps volunteer. Susan, who is passionate about education, said, “This event covers it all for college; from admission to scholarships to financial aid to mental health.  Don’t like the college idea? We’ve got you covered, too. Don’t miss this info-packed event.”

The conference committee also consists of Rose Gutfeld, Loren Knobbe, Melissa Martinez and Vivian Russell, and is supported by many volunteers, True North students and scholarship recipients, as well as The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, a program under the Colorado Department of Higher Education. True North is also sponsored locally by the Just for Kids Foundation, the Town of Mountain Village, the Town of Telluride and the Telluride Foundation.

Advance registration is recommended to secure priority seating. Those who register in advance will be entered into a raffle drawing for a multitude of fun prizes, one of which is a guided trip for two on the Via Ferrata. To view a full conference schedule and to register, visit truenorthyouthprogram.org/college-career-conference.