GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The applications are in for the valley’s newest scholarship. At least a dozen students are in the running for Fast Forward.
Beginning this year, the new fund will provide several renewable awards of up to $5,000 for high school seniors from Glenwood and Carbondale to attend a two-year degree program or trade school.
Fast Forward is spearheaded by the Western Colorado Community Foundation (WCCF) with support from the Two Rivers Community Foundation (2RCF). It is funded by Paul Bushong. Their goal is to empower high school seniors that might otherwise be overlooked in the scramble for a four-year degree.
Many scholarships in the area cater to students looking to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but comparatively few provide support specifically for two-year programs like those at Colorado Mountain College.
“Many college-bound seniors have been encouraged for years as to what they will do after graduation,” Bushong observed, “I feel this is not the case with many seniors that have not been encouraged to higher education.”
To Bushong, the students that graduate not knowing what they want to do, or those who don’t have the means to attend a two-year college, are the primary target for Fast Forward. He cited “Pathways to Prosperity,” an article put together by Harvard University, as an accurate representation of what they’re trying to do.
Bushong hatched the idea last spring. The retired engineer moved to the valley permanently after his wife passed away, having “lived everywhere twice.” He spoke with Glenwood Springs High counselor Wade Lewis and principal Paul Freeman, both of whom agreed there was a need for a two-year scholarship.
By September, Bushong had put together a set of criteria and enlisted Ray Limoges, a longtime friend he’d met through the locally based Hundred Club. Limoges contributed his nonprofit experience from establishing the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, as well as a passion for the type of students the program targets.
“I was one of those kids,” he said.
The pair brought in Susie Richardson of 2RCF and Anne Wezel of WCCF to help formalize the program, and Bushong pledged $60,000 a year to make the program a reality. In addition to Lewis, they spoke with counselor Jill Kelly-Anson at Glenwood High and, in January, decided to add Carbondale to the mix with the help of Bridges’ Bob Willey and Roaring Fork’s Andrea Carus.
Between then and last week’s deadline, Fast Forward received more than a dozen applications.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how many applications were received given the short amount of time that was available to promote the new scholarship,” Richardson said.
This year, students submitted two letters of recommendation and a short essay with their application, but the process may undergo some fine tuning before the next round.
A five-person committee will make the selections. Bushong can participate in the discussion but as the primary donor will not be involved in the final decision. Scholarship winners are generally announced near the end of May.
The level of interest is such that the group is already talking about ways to enhance or expand the program. They hope that other philanthropists might want to participate.
“If we’re going to make an impact of any kind we need more money,” Bushong said.
Donations can be made out to WCCF Fast Forward Scholarship and mailed to PO Box 1539 in Glenwood Springs. For more information, contact Susie Richardson, 970-279-3410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.