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Torres column: Happiness is the goal

When parents at an elementary school were asked what they wanted for their children, what did they reply? Love? Money? Fame? Recognition? Health? Awards? Happiness? More than 95% choose “happiness,” because happiness is not created by love, money, fame, recognition, health or awards. It’s the result of complex events and interpretations.

I’ve studied many books, by authors like Jocy Meyers, Anthony Robbins, Napoleon Hills, Albert Einstein and Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sanchez, about how to release one’s potential, how to achieve happiness, how to live to the fullest and how to empower one’s life. To achieve these things is complex and involves self-awareness, personal security, adequate knowledge, progress towards one’s goals, a sense of purpose, finding the good things in life and being able to control one’s thoughts.

Since my passion is teaching health and weight loss, I’m going to focus on this aspect of “happiness.” Many develop diseases and have problems with weight gain because of their lifestyle. This often consists of bad food choices and behaviors and an inactive lifestyle. A person’s choices and actions create a negative lifestyle for them, which leads to negative results and situations, which do not contribute to human happiness.

Wonderfully, we have free will in our lives. Sometimes when people notice that their lifestyle is going in the wrong direction, they choose to start making better choices to better achieve happiness. In fact, “Happiness is the Goal” (a book in Spanish that I’m reading) states that happiness is actually not a long-term goal but can be an everyday goal.

“Happiness is the Goal” explains that to achieve our daily goal of happiness we usually have to do some uncomfortable but constructive things. In other words, discipline makes us happy. Odd sounding, I know, but true. The book continues talking about the importance of being fit.

An example of this can be seen at Custom Body Fitness every day. People are in there, knowing they need to exercise in order to lose weight or improve their fitness, but along the way they realize that exercise itself contributes to their daily happiness. The reason is because exercise has many advantages:

• Combats health conditions and diseases

• Improves mood and even sex drive

• Boosts energy levels

• Reduces the risk of dying prematurely

• Reduces the risk of diabetes and helps control diabetes for those who have been diagnosed.

• Reduces the risk of high blood pressure and helps reduce high blood pressure in people who already have hypertension

• Promotes psychological well-being

• Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety

• Helps control weight and lose body fat

• Rejuvenates the body

• Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints

• Improves the physical ability to drive a car in older adults

Not to mention that a person who is fit is able to do many physical tasks that the average person can’t.

I used to be a person with no discipline; I let life take its own random course. I thought I was happy, but I was only rationalizing my unfocused, if somewhat comfortable, life. But now, as I work out and try new things in life and in my business, I end up getting out of my comfort zone, and I see that this allows me to achieve many of the long-term goals that contribute to my long-term happiness. Not only that, it has helped me achieve daily happiness. This may sound a bit obscure, since it’s hard to explain to someone who has not achieved true daily happiness. It is like explaining the red color to a blind person. If you experience self-discipline, and find all the good things of life, you may know what I’m talking about.

Don’t let your life vanish, waiting for happiness when you have it in front of you. I encourage you to find what you require to start being happy every day of your life. I suspect that starting to exercise and changing your eating habits for better ones could be a first step towards this happiness goal.

Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Basalt and Glenwood Springs and author of the books “Lose Weight Permanently” and “Finding Genuine Happiness.” His column appears on the second Monday of the month.

YouthZone column: Teens’ emotional health impacted by COVID-19 restrictions


It has been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed all our lives dramatically. The social restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic have left most of us feeling exhausted and stressed out. Families have been in “survival mode” for all or most of that time with children experiencing a range of emotions, including sadness, anger and fear.

The pandemic has been especially difficult for adolescents. Peer groups and social interactions are an important aspect of development for teens, and the loss of these experiences during the pandemic left many teens feeling anxious and disconnected.

If the teens in your life have been struggling to cope throughout the coronavirus pandemic, results from a recent survey conducted by the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics suggest they are far from alone. A national sample of parents was asked about the emotional impact that pandemic restrictions have had on their teenagers. The results, while not totally unexpected in content, are eye-opening in terms of the magnitude of the impacts.

A majority of parents in the survey reported that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their teen’s ability to interact with their friends. Very few parents indicated that their teens have been getting together with friends on a regular basis.

About half of the parents reported a new or worsening mental health condition for their teen since the start of the pandemic. The negative behaviors reported include changes in their teen’s sleep, withdrawal from family and aggressive behavior. More parents of teen girls than parents of teen boys noted an increase in anxiety/worry or depression/sadness.

As parents, guardians and trusted adults, we can support teens by modeling good coping skills, encouraging healthy habits and working to understand and relate to what they are going through.

An important step toward supporting young people through this challenging time is for caring adults to have empathy for what teens have been experiencing. Peer relationships are a big deal for adolescents because their still-developing brains are wired such that they feel rewarded when they socialize. Additionally, time with friends helps teens establish their identities and begin seeking opportunities to establish independence from their families.

The limitations on these social outlets have left many teens feeling lonely and bored. It is important for adults to make time to ask open-ended questions that show you care about what they are going through. Teens need to feel heard, so offering solutions is less important than simply being available to listen.

Adults looking to help teens manage their feelings can make a difference by modeling good self-care. When parents and guardians take care of themselves, they show adolescents how to deal with stress and be resilient in the face of challenges. Exercising, eating healthily and getting adequate sleep are all great ways to model self-care for teens.

There will be instances where parents and guardians recognize that their teens need more emotional support than they can provide. This is normal and understandable.

Reaching out to other parents and seeking help from mental health professionals are acts of strength in parenting. One in four parents in the survey reported seeking help for their teen from a mental health provider in the last year, and the vast majority of them feel it helped.

As the pandemic wanes, there is a real opportunity for families and communities to better support teens’ emotional well-being. If you need support with the adolescents in your life, YouthZone is here for you. We offer youth coaching, counseling, parent consultations and mental health support.

Keith Berglund joined the YouthZone team as the assistant director in 2019. After earning a degree in marine biology from Occidental College, he started his 25-year teaching career as a science teacher and basketball coach at a middle school. Over the years his role expanded to youth mentor, public servant, nonprofit manger and Love and Logic Facilitator.

Personal Finance column: Perennial applications for vintage financial wisdom

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”

— Will Rogers

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

— Charles Dickens

“Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.”

— A.A. Latimer

Replace your budget with an intentional spending plan. Tell your money where to go instead of asking where it went. Connect with your core values on what is important in your life and direct the financial flow. You won’t be swayed by media or the perceived “fear of missing out.” Spending with joyful intention within safe boundaries is a powerful combination.

“Everyday is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor; we’ve got 24 hours each.”

— Christopher Rice

Consider that return on life is just as if not more important than return on investment. Money is very necessary up to a point. There is a diminishing rate of return on happiness as it pertains to income. Each person has their unique narrative to live a life on purpose and in their potential. Put forth effort and energy toward people, activities and causes that make you come alive. Using your financial means to pave this path is where you create true wealth.

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

— Yogi Berra

Inflation is an integral part of life. Flash back to 1970 prices: a home, $26,600; a first-class stamp, 6 cents; a gallon of gas, 36 cents; a gallon of milk, $1.15. You can either seek to outpace the cost of living — save and invest in broad-based, diversified, tax efficient portfolios (such as real estate and the stock market) for long-term goals. Or you can reduce your lifestyle and choices down the road.

“The Stock Market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.”

— Warren Buffett

Investing is different from speculating. Investing requires vision and a long-term focus, goal setting, good habits and mindsets. It is necessary to keep emotions in check and where wisdom undergirds and directs knowledge alongside application.

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”

— Henry Ford

These two both speak to the importance of character assets. Too often financial assets are the singular measure of “wealth.” Your net worth does not define your self-worth. When you focus on building and enhancing positive, productive character traits, the financial pieces will stay in their proper place to serve you and society.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

Generosity is the secret sauce in creating true wealth. It is foundational for financial health as giving breaks the bind of consumerism. It is a profoundly personal journey and worth taking steps on the path.

With over 2,000 references in the Bible about money, this one is the most misquoted and misinterpreted: 1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Money is not in itself evil, but when it becomes the focal point of life either because of unsatiable desires or life-sustaining scarcity, immorality can bloom. The garden of your financial life needs to be well tended to keep this weed from taking hold.

“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

— P.T. Barnum

“Master Card” – the irony is palpable. If used wisely, it is a tool of convenience and safety. For many, consumer debt has been normalized and expected, yet holds them hostage from attaining financial freedom.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

To me, this speaks to financial efficacy. We are not victims of financial circumstances. We get to choose — whether it is regarding the financial means you have or the mindsets you embrace. We can plan. We can save and invest. We can work hard. We can choose an attitude of gratitude and a mindset of sufficiency. We can recalibrate and pivot when things don’t go the way we had hoped. Where do you have wins and how do you want to build on them?

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at daniellehoward4u.com.

Mulhall column: Blue rocks and earth tones


Recently, I’ve been reading about the Garfield County commissioners’ focus on Ascendigo, a proposed facility for the development of autistic spectrum people. From what I read, the county’s in the middle of a real standoff between a landowner and its neighbors.

I once served on a homeowners’ association board. That experience was among the most eye-opening disappointments of my adult life. That board — without my support — voted to force a neighbor to paint his sky-blue metal roof forest green because “blue is not an earth tone,” even though our neighbor produced a sky-colored rock from a nearby Crystal River gravel bar to support blue’s earth tone bona fides.

That’s not exactly what’s going on in Missouri Heights, but it’s similar groundwork: Sometimes the notion you can do what you want with your land doesn’t extend beyond an idea; sometimes the latitude to do what you want on your property is not legally protected; sometimes two opposing parties can make the same claim.

Ascendigo wants to build a facility to help autistic people. Adjacent property owners claim Ascendigo’s presence will change some of what they enjoy about their property. If Garfield County supports Ascendigo’s plans, Missouri Heights homeowners may say their property rights were not legally protected. If the county declines support, Ascendigo could say the same.

What a dilemma!

An approach the county could take would be to back the side more likely to sue, by virtue of disposition or legal standing. Fortunately, Garfield County commissioners aren’t wobbly, so this calculus won’t factor.

What will?

Traffic, for one. Missouri Heights residents have formed a nonprofit called “Keep Missouri Heights Rural” (KMHR),” and by “rural,” I think they mean relatively traffic-free, or more like a private drive than a county road.

In question is the McDowell Engineering Report’s offset between traffic generated by some number (15 or 20) of home sites and Ascendigo’s proposed facility. That difference amounts to something like enough traffic to re-create the final scene in Field of Dreams, or so KMHR’s narrative goes.

Maybe 15 more homes, with all the construction and school buses and FedEx and UPS and US Mail traffic that come with, would not unravel the rural fabric of Missouri Heights in any meaningful way, but the traffic caused by Ascendigo would.

It’s not an argument I’d make a stand on.

Another argument against Ascendigo is that the proposed improvements are not an “educational facility.”

This is unhelpful sophistry.

Any parent of a special needs child can attest that however noble the spirit of numerous federal regulations, the “free and appropriate education” mandate gets a lot of mileage out of the word “appropriate.”

A special needs child may diverge from normal childhood development long before preschool. Federal regulations require public schools meet the individual education needs of such children while providing the education most children need for all the usual post-high-school options. It’s not a simple proposition.

Where most students graduate from high school with a diploma, which connotes quantifiable academic achievement, others, some along the autistic spectrum, graduate with a certificate of attendance, or something like it. You can spend a lot of time contemplating whether that’s “appropriate.”

For a special needs child, high school graduation (if they’re able to go to public school) just marks the end of attending an “educational facility.” For some, the opportunity to achieve any form of independence, or even to seek happiness, requires further development.

Perhaps Ascendigo could broaden its acceptance among citizens of Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties by declining to engage in the “rural” traffic argument altogether and showing instead how its programs contribute an “appropriate” education — a needed, valuable service — to autistic spectrum people.

That’d be all it would take, really, though it probably wouldn’t do much to change the minds of some nearby homeowners.

Still, underscoring what Ascendigo does for the least among us is a bit like holding up a blue rock as proof that blue is an earth tone.

What you do with truth is up to you.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.

Whiting column: The rural and urban difference is attitude


Our country’s divisions are numerous, but consistent in cause and effect.

We have red and blue states, conservatives and liberals, makers and takers, achievers and receivers, but the starkest is rural and urban. Mending these divisions requires discerning the root cause of the divergent rural and urban attitudes and values.

Childhood environment provides the most likely causality. Seldom did students enter my classroom without any preconceived notions planted by their parents; as they should have been. Students who worked hard in class and valued hard work usually came from parents’ role modeling the same.

Expecting to work for what one receives as opposed to expecting governmental bailouts is a common rural value. A bad precedent was set when the government subsidized businesses they deemed too big to fail. Now they are subsidizing people that don’t feel the need to work.

It’s a function of how we were raised and what we experienced. Those who grew up working in high school, summers and college tend to value what they earned. Others feel they are owed a free college education because they exist; opportunity isn’t enough. It’s as simple as expecting to work first and receive second as opposed to expecting to receive first and then doing something. Maybe.

Growing up working one learns that every day is a workday. Whether taking care of livestock, changing the irrigation water, or harvesting a crop, the weekend isn’t a day off. There are responsibilities that must be fulfilled. Working for a restaurant, hotel, rafting company, ski area, gas station and the like means weekends are two workdays. Those that grew up with daily chores tend to value and exhibit hard work.

The nature of rural living facilitates one learning to take command of their own life whether it be driving a rural road in winter, chopping wood for heat, or trying to harvest an elk for food. All the conveniences of urban life aren’t necessarily available around the corner.

We all need money, but for those in rural areas, your work is your identity. Many in urban areas work solely to pay for things, consequently if they receive the money necessary without it, they don’t feel the need to work. The rural mindset thinks in terms of working until the job is done; the urban concept tends to stop working when the clock says your day is done.

When life’s inevitable mistakes or disappointments occur, the rural attitude is to acknowledge, apologize and fix. The urban thought tends to look for something or someone else to blame for their choices or what they don’t have.

The rural/urban divide has magnified in recent years providing additional insight. A daily life involving work and outdoors compared to urban concrete can’t help but influence one’s actions and values.

The traditional rural lifestyle involves providing and raising the necessities of urban life. Rural grows crops, urban eats crops. Rural grows livestock; urban eats meat. Rural produces lumber; urban lives in a house. Rural raises horses; urban wants to ride them on weekends.

Because the oil and natural gas used by the urban sector is typically produced in rural areas those working in those industries reside there. The dams, coal mines and respective power plants necessary to meet the urban electrical demand tend to be rural. The renewable energy sources of wind turbines and solar fields tend to be rural as well.

Water is not an exception. Whether it be transmountain pipelines or downstream dams the water is supplied by the rural high-country snowpack. The ski areas, trails, rivers and mountains so valued for urban resident recreation are a rural function.

In all these examples, the urban sector expects to use the rural sector for their benefit and is comfortable doing so.

This explains the examples of urban areas utilizing their population advantage to make decisions that don’t consider the ramifications for rural citizens. Transplanting wolves, mileage-based automobile taxes, diverting highway funds to urban areas, basing educational funding on student numbers, requiring the use of doctors in urban-based medical networks, reducing oil/gas production without consideration of lost jobs and economic value, proposed ballot issues effectively eliminating the livestock industry and mandated statewide economic shutdowns to name a few. Empathy does not seem to be in the urban lexicon.

But rural is more than living there. One doesn’t go from urban to rural values by moving to a smaller town. Buying a 5-acre ranchette doesn’t make you a cowboy. They may own a pair of cowboy boots, but there won’t be any manure on them or know which end of the cow to avoid. It isn’t about what you wear, it’s about actions and attitudes. Significant change only occurs from the inside out. There are plenty of people living in the rural environment with the urban viewpoint.

The urban mindset and using attitude tend to stay with them when they move. The problem is they want to change their new locality into the urban one from which they came. It doesn’t make sense to desire to move away from the urban condition and then seek to change their new home to what they left.

It’s our personal responsibility to fight urban dominance by possessing, modeling and urging others to incorporate rural values and empathize.

Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to: bwpersonalresponsibility@gmail.com.

Guest opinion: Ensuring real student equity in the Roaring Fork Valley


“Your mind is like a parachute; it only works when it’s open,” my seventh-grade teacher counseled. That inspiration — and Mr. Rogers’ assurance that he liked me just the way I am — helped me surmount the challenges of my ugly scoliosis-correcting brace.

I told this trauma-to-triumph story when applying for school and work, and later to our son as he coped with the challenges of dyslexia. His Aspen School District teachers inspired him to Think Again — he wasn’t different; he just learned differently.

Imagine his pride when chosen to address his eighth-grade graduation where he shared his lesson that though we can’t choose what happens to us in life, we can choose how to react.

People don’t shape stories as much as stories shape people. The Jewish Peoples’ slavery-to-freedom story repeated each Passover for 33 centuries cultivated a collective resolve not just to survive relentless persecution, but to craft ethics centered on human equality, helping civilize the world.

Similarly, America’s July 4th story forged a common identity derived from human history’s most revolutionary ideas — e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) and the democratic self-rule of a free people who are “created equal.” The conviction that man-made laws must reflect natural law birthed the anti-slavery, anti-Jim Crow, and Civil Rights movements, and attracted multitudes yearning to be American.

As the lucky heir of both stories, I’m alarmed by “anti-racist” theories overtaking institutions, including K-12 schools. To advance “justice,” the book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction advocates upending our “liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law.”

Books like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, popularized the absurdity that our liberal order is not systemically self-improving; it’s “systemically racist.” To address inequality, they argue, we must treat people differently based on race.

Coining the term “KenDiAngelonians,” Black intellectuals John McWhorter and Glenn Loury call Kendi and DiAngelo neo-racist cult leaders whose illiberal ideas disempower minority children by suggesting they are unable to compete within objective standards of excellence. Why abandon our “created equal” premise and the dreams it spawned — including being judged by our character, not skin color?

Recently, ASD Superintendent David Baugh and High School Principal Sarah Strassburger ruled out CRT, responding to concerns raised about an “equity survey” administered at Aspen High. Thankfully, survey results reveal a healthy school environment.

They wrote, “Trying to meet the needs of each and every student where they are” and ensuring “all students are seen, heard, and celebrated is not Critical Race Theory,” adding, “public school educators are to be apolitical in the workplace.”

Bravo!

Indeed, lifting differently talented kids from where they are to where they’re capable of going is education’s purpose. Though our son became a reader, not all dyslexics do, even when equally supported. Considering Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Muhammed Ali were dyslexics whose talents changed the world, children can surmount disparity when inspired to develop their unique potential.

Despite its official rejection in Aspen, CRT’s jargon and vague, unsubstantiated claims linger. A resolution proposed to ASD’s Board of Education “to foster an equitable and inclusive environment” asserts that “racism is systemic” and “rooted into our institutions, policies, and practices,” leaving many “ignored, discriminated against, and marginalized.”

Similarly, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein — an eight-year veteran — asserted in a June 19, 2020 column that institutional racism “pervades education” and “is latent in our implicit biases and the insidious influence of privilege in our schools.”

With such stinging indictments, you’d expect supporting evidence, and recommendations for specific and measurable interventions. Do those charging systemic racism agree with Kendi, that “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination?”

The National Equity Project informing our districts suggests we evaluate “data through an equity lens” to “ensure equally high outcomes.” Though performance metrics in our valley reveal racial disparity, how do we know racism is the cause, and why assume students in each racial category are homogenous, defined only by their race or ethnicity?

Might “systemic racism” be the wrong diagnosis, polarizing people while diverting attention away from specific interventions to help students advance based on their unique circumstances and talents, thereby deriving self-respect and empowerment?

The feeling of “otherness” is the lived experience of generations of Americans, including my grandparents who overcame systemic prejudice to become the architects of their lives. Just as I’m the beneficiary of their story, might minority children benefit from stories of Black Americans who overcame unimaginable adversity to claim their “created equal” birthright?

McWhorter and Loury are in an alliance of Black intellectuals at 1776 Unites whose curriculum (rejected by ASD) is dedicated to empowering children with stories of African Americans who persevered through the harshest circumstances.

“’Yes, we can’t’ has never been the slogan of Black America and it is not now,” insists McWhorter. Nor should it ever be — a declaration worthy of any BoE resolution.

Think Again — to promote real diversity, equity and inclusion, shouldn’t we inspire students to recognize that they’re created both equal and different, and valued just the way they are?

Melanie Sturm, founder of Engage to Win, aims to change communication for good through her training and writing. Encouraging readers to “Think Again, you might change your mind.” She welcomes comments at melanie@engage2win.org.

Hauser column: Hard work levels the playing field

Colorado Mountain College President and CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser.

Sometimes you have to set your sights on a target that’s seemingly out of reach and pour your energy into accomplishing it.

Several years ago, the team at Colorado Mountain College established a goal to become Colorado’s next Hispanic Serving Institution, the federal designation assigned to colleges and universities that successfully support a student population that is 25% or more Latino. Based on CMC’s history, it was a seemingly overconfident objective. But, by putting the right strategies in place, we knew it could be achieved.

There are just over 500 Hispanic Serving Institutions in the United States (about 10% of roughly 5,000 colleges and universities nationwide). These colleges are found in 21 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and are most often concentrated in states with large Latino populations, such as California and Texas, and in metropolitan areas. In Colorado, only about one-third of the state’s public colleges have been granted HSI status. CMC will be the first HSI located in Colorado’s rural, high-cost mountain resort region.

When I arrived at CMC in 2013, the college was launching into its newly authorized bachelor’s degree offerings. Then, CMC’s Latino population was approximately 13% of overall enrollments, which was not representative of the general population. Troublingly, at that time, CMC’s Latino students were underperforming with regard to retention and completion compared with their majority counterparts. In fact, Latino student achievement lagged by double digits.

We promptly adopted performance objectives for each of our 11 campuses and the college as a whole. In every category — enrollment, retention, credit accumulation and course completion — we focused on disparities between Latino and non-Latino students.

By 2020, the improvements at CMC were dramatic and positive. On nearly every metric, Latino student performance not only improved, but stubborn gaps in retention and completion finally closed. In fact, Latino students had the highest completion performance among all groups in 2019-20. Noteworthy, these improvements did not come at the expense of anyone else. Over the past five years, equity disparities have dissolved, and all students at CMC have become more successful. A true win-win.

Though we cannot isolate any one strategy as a panacea, several initiatives were important.

First, the college doubled-down on its commitment to offering concurrent enrollment classes in area high schools. We knew the populations in many local school districts were 50% or more Latino.

So, instead of waiting for these students to come to CMC following high school, we made the college more accessible to them at an earlier age. Today, more than 2,000 local high school students enroll at CMC annually. Along with their high school diploma, many also earn post-secondary certificates or associate degrees — free from any tuition costs to them or their families.

Second, we applied millions of state and philanthropic grant funds as well as newly designed financial aid programs where they were most needed. The college also directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to local school districts to cover the costs of tuition and books for high school students, and through our President’s Scholarship, guaranteed funding to every graduating senior across CMC’s region.

Finally, we intentionally added new career-focused certificate and degree programs, concentrating our energy on programs leading to stable employment in our region, such as nursing, teacher education, law enforcement and business. And our evolution into a “dual mission” institution — one that offers bachelor’s degrees in addition to locally relevant certificates and associate degrees — gave students seamless pathways to continue their education close to home while contributing to the local economy.

These efforts were not designed to increase enrollment or revenue or “grow” the college per se. Instead, we focused on improving outcomes and becoming a highly effective institution where students complete their program of choice without incurring burdensome debt.

And it worked. Today, our student enrollment is modestly lower than it was in 2013, but we’ve doubled the number of degrees and certificates awarded annually. More of our students — now approaching 28% Latino — enroll full time and finish what they started.

CMC’s newly minted HSI status marks the end of the beginning, not an end to itself. Considerable effort still lies ahead including pursuing federal grants for which we are now eligible — resources that will improve the CMC experience for everyone.

And, without question, this new designation is a testament to the fact that great things happen when thousands of talented people apply their energy toward a shared goal — to level the playing field so that anyone who attends CMC is welcomed, supported and successful.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at president@coloradomtn.edu or @CMCPresident.

Sundin column: Volcanic eruptions, a history lesson


With the world facing the COVID-19 pandemic, overpopulation and global warming with widespread drought and forest fires, one threat we do not have to worry about is volcanic eruptions. Other than the shallow Dotsero Crater, which was produced by a minor magma and water explosion around 4,000 years ago, Colorado has had no volcanic activity for tens of thousands of years.

Most of the world’s volcanic activity is in the Pacific Rim, which includes Indonesia, Japan, Alaska, the Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States, and Hawaii. The U.S. has the third most volcanic activity in the world, after Indonesia and Japan, with most of that being in Alaska.

Volcanic threats in the mainland U.S. are along the West Coast, including Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in California, and Mount Hood and South Sister Peak in Oregon, which are all classified as potentially “active volcanoes.”

The most famous volcanic eruption in human history was Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy, on Aug. 24, 79, which sent a pyroclastic flow onto Pompei and Herculaneum, burying them in up to 60 feet of ash and killing an estimated 16,000 people. A second eruption on Dec. 16, 1631, killed another 4,000. Since then, the nearby Naples Metropolitan District., with a population of 4.5 million, has seen 21 minor eruptions, the last of which was in 1947 during the American invasion of Italy in World War II.

The eruption of Mount Laki in Iceland on June 2, 1783, spewed 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide (and 3.7 cubic miles of lava) into the atmosphere over a span of eight months, affecting the climate of much of the northern hemisphere, creating a cold wave that destroyed crops, leading to massive deaths from starvation in Europe and of more than 15% of the populations of Japan, Egypt and Alaska. In the spring of 2010, a much-less-severe eruption of another mountain in Iceland cast an estimated 330 cubic yards of rock particles into the atmosphere, causing an enormous disruption of trans-Atlantic air travel.

The two largest and most violent, and most devastating, volcanic eruptions on record both occurred in Indonesia in the 19th century. They were heard as far away as 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Mount Tambora, on the island of Sumbawa, erupted on April 12-14, 1815, blowing the top third of the mountain away and killing 11,000 people. It put so much debris and gases into the atmosphere (36 cubic miles of rock and ash and 60 million tons of SO2 and hydrogen sulfidesulfur dioxide) that it caused crop failures resulting in the death of another 60,000 people in Indonesia. As the haze spread around the world, it cut off enough sunlight to cause crop failures throughout the world, resulting in the deaths of 200,000 people worldwide.

As a result, 1816 was called the year without a summer, and in the U.S. “eighteen hundred froze to death” due to extreme temperature drops, according to historical accounts.

Then on Aug. 26-27, 1883, Mount Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java exploded, killing 38,000 people from the explosion and resulting tidal waves.

The next major volcanic eruption occurred on the Island of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea on May 8, 1902, when Mount Pelee exploded, sending a pyroclastic flow onto the nearby city of St. Pierre, killing the entire population of 28,000, except for one man who had been incarcerated in a deep underground cell.

On Nov. 13, 1985, an eruption of Nevada del Ruiz in Colombia created a “lahar” (a flood of mud precipitated by the melting of snow and ice at the summit) that buried the city of Amero, killing all 23,000 residents. The same thing had happened in 1845. In spite of that, they had rebuilt the city on the same spot — and guess what happened? There is now concern about a lahar from Mount Rainier descending on Puyallup, Tacoma and the surrounding communities.

Japan’s most devastating volcanic eruption resulted from an earthquake on May 21, 1792, near Nagasaki, on Kyushu (the south island of Japan). A devastating landslide 100-feet thick, traveling at 30 miles per hour, slid into the bay, generating a 330-foot high tsunami that killed 15,000 people.

The most serious volcanic eruption in the recorded history of the U.S. was the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington on May 18, 1980, setting off a huge landslide that reduced the height of the mountain 1,000 feet. But, because of its remote location, it killed only 57 people.

“As I See It” appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at americron@comcast.net.

Guest opinion: Planning for safe, FireWise summers


Most of us look forward to summer as a time to relax and enjoy the outdoors with our families.

Sadly, the fear and danger of wildfires has become an increased summer concern here on the Western Slope. Doing everything we can as individuals to prepare for potential wildfires and knowing what actions our elected officials are taking to safeguard our families will help set our minds at ease so we can continue to enjoy summer in this beautiful part of our state.

One simple step we can take is to register our up-to-date contact information with the county’s Emergency Notification System (garco911.com). Each family member who is capable of responding responsibly to an emergency should register.

Local fire departments also encourage every family to complete the “Ready, Set, Go!” incident action plan. Introductory information can be found on the Glenwood Springs Fire Department website. Google “Ready, set, go! Ready for Wildfire” to find detailed instructions in both English and Spanish developed by a California fire department.

CSU’s FireWise Construction: Site Design & Building Materials brochure is an excellent resource for current and prospective property owners, available through the Garfield County Community Development webpages or by searching the Web. We urge the county commissioners to promote these guidelines and make them more easily accessible on the county’s home page.

Our elected officials could also take actions to reduce the likelihood of a wildfire starting in the first place. Over 80% of wildfires in the U.S. are started by humans. Prioritizing wildfire education and passing ordinances like those adopted elsewhere in the country could help prevent future incidents.

The county commissioners made a move in the right direction with their ban on the use of fireworks this year. However, they dropped the ball by creating an exception to that ban May 31 to July 5, one of the driest periods of the year.

Colorful fireworks stands tempt people to buy and use fireworks. The commissioners have already approved permits for firework sales this year. Let’s ask them to commit now to a more proactive plan for the future: no permits for firework sales any year when local fire officials consider drought conditions to be extreme, or worse.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has designated the majority of Garfield County as experiencing “exceptional drought” — a step beyond “extreme drought.” Colorado’s Assistant State Climatologist recently predicted there would be a large wildfire somewhere in western Colorado before the end of June. Surely, the safety of our families and homes takes precedence over the freedom of individuals to light fireworks.

Given that our public lands will soon be filled with out-of-towners who may not understand the delicate state of our forests, it also would be wise for officials to eliminate the risks associated with campfires. Recently, the county website indicated no campfire restrictions in effect in unincorporated Garfield County, the White River National Forest or BLM lands in the county.

We also rely on our elected officials to help keep us safe in the event that a wildfire does occur. Currently, there is little information regarding planning or preparations for wildfire season on either the sheriff’s or the county’s website. The sheriff serves as the fire warden for the county; the GarCo emergency manager works under the direction of the sheriff.

The ability of families to evacuate safely is a top concern. Taking proactive steps to address the challenges and set up protocols for multitudes of people to vacate our mountain towns at the same time requires coordination by officials from Parachute to Carbondale. Have such meetings been occurring? If so, the public would like to know about them. What progress has been made and what plans are in place?

It’s hard to imagine another situation more applicable to the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Now is the time to be addressing issues such as inadequate road signage and developing protocols to reduce potential traffic jams.

The city of Glenwood Springs has invested significant resources in the South Bridge Project, which is critical to emergency evacuation and emergency service access for residents of South Glenwood Springs and unincorporated Garfield County around 4 Mile Road. It’s time for Garfield County to contribute to the South Bridge Project and help it move to completion.

We also need elected officials to acknowledge the underlying causes of the extraordinary droughts we are experiencing and to adopt concrete measures to reduce our production of greenhouse gases. Our elected officials must have the foresight and vision to address the well-being of our community for generations to come.

Our elected officials were tapped to serve us. Protecting our health and safety is their job. Let’s urge them to prioritize wildfire preparation and planning and share with us their short-term and long-term plans for safeguarding our communities.

Debbie Bruell of Carbondale chairs the Garfield County Democrats.

YouthEntity column: Summer experiences to help keep teens on track

Remember that last day of school? The feeling of freedom, three gloriously unscheduled months ahead of you, the world your oyster? As kids we waited all year for summer vacation to arrive, and when it did, it went by far too quickly.

Summer is a time to recharge, but also a chance for high school students to explore areas of interest during time which is truly theirs. But how can they take advantage of summer break to gain unique experiences that may otherwise be more difficult to pursue once a full schedule of classes and sports is back in place? We have several ideas:

Internships: Internships provide meaningful opportunities for growth and offer the chance to take your classroom education and apply it to the real world. So how to find an internship while still in high school? Speak with your guidance counselor or look for opportunities posted on community college job boards. It also helps to be proactive and reach out to businesses — small business owners may not have the time to post an opening for extra help, and they’ll almost certainly be impressed at this combination of proactive initiative and ambition. You never know what valuable opportunities — perhaps in the form of mentorship or future employment — may be found through an internship.

Take a class: Many community colleges offer summer continuing education and 101 classes in business, art, accounting, media, computer skills and so much more. Taking the time to learn something new is never a waste of time (and looks impressive on a college application or resume).

Summer jobs: Summer jobs in the Roaring Fork Valley are plentiful. Our area is home to a booming construction industry, as well as a hospitality industry poised for an exceptionally busy summer season. Summer jobs teach all-important “soft skills,” including timeliness, teamwork, communication and responsibility. It’s also a fantastic way to apply financial literacy education to managing income. Earn while you learn!

Give back: It goes without saying that volunteering can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a young person. Volunteering may open up possibilities, uncover a passion for impactful work, and will certainly help open minds to new perspectives. And while volunteer work looks great on college applications, giving time to improve the circumstances of others is an experience that can shape us in wonderfully unexpected ways. The Roaring Fork Valley is home to many nonprofits — change your life and the lives of others.

Prepare for the year to come: Make sure your class schedule is set for fall. It’s never too early to prepare for the upcoming school year. Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss classes and other educational experiences. There are hands-on learning options outside of traditional classes that still help meet graduation requirements, such as Career Academy & YE University. Based on your interests and goals, your counselor may just point you to Youthentity.

We’re wishing our students a fantastic summer break, and a return to school in the fall refreshed and ready to learn. Make the most out of this time that is all yours.

Kirsten McDaniel is the executive director of Youthentity, a Carbondale-based nonprofit that delivers financial literacy and career readiness programs to over 4,000 youth throughout Colorado’s Western Slope.