Unique Fast Forward scholarship looks to grow
Tax deductible contributions to the scholarship fund can be made to the Fast Forward Scholarship, care of the Aspen Community Foundation, 110 E. Hallam St., Aspen 81611. For more information about the program, visit http://www.aspencommunityfoundation.org/scholarships or call (970) 925-9300.
A 3-year-old scholarship targeting high school graduates from Glenwood Springs and Carbondale schools who might not otherwise consider a two-year college degree or trade program is looking for more financial support and more future applicants.
The Fast Forward Scholarship grew from nine scholarships totaling $60,000 last year to 16 student awards totaling $69,000 this spring for graduates of Glenwood Springs (1), Roaring Fork (3), Yampah Mountain (3) and Bridges (9) high schools.
Scholarship founder Paul Bushong said that, ideally, it would have been nice to be able to award another $15,000 to those recipients, but there was only so much money to go around.
He has pledged to continue funding the scholarship himself for the long term, but he and scholarship supporter and friend Ray Limoges of Glenwood Springs are now extending their reach into the community for businesses and other philanthropists to support the program.
“We have something here that I think is really needed, and it’s not only about helping the kids; it also helps the community,” said Bushong, a retired petroleum engineer who lives at Aspen Glen.
Past recipients of the award have gone on to pursue careers in trades such as dental hygiene, accounting, certification as nursing and medical aides, cosmetology, diesel and auto mechanics, pastry cooking and physical therapy.
Schools attended have included Colorado Mountain College and other community colleges in the state, the Glenwood Springs Beauty Academy, the Independent Electrical Contractors, Johnson and Wales, Sage Truck Driving School and Lincoln College of Technology.
This year’s scholarship recipients are entering programs ranging from veterinary technology to gunsmithing at nine different institutions across Colorado.
The original idea was to empower graduating seniors who might be overlooked in their desire to further their educations beyond high school, but who might not be immediately interested in pursuing a four-year degree, Bushong said.
The scholarship program began under the umbrella of the Two Rivers Community Foundation but is now affiliated with the Aspen Community Foundation. The ACF recently provided money for area high schools to hire more college counselors, which also helped steer more students to apply for the Fast Forward Scholarship.
“What we are doing here is different than any other scholarship in the valley,” Bushong said. “We want to focus on the one- and two-year kids who tend to get overlooked and sometimes fall through the cracks.”
Scholarship amounts have typically been up to $5,000 apiece, but the program recently expanded its criteria to include scholarships up to $10,000 for students attending an institution outside the Roaring Fork Valley.
Awards can also now be used for the first and second year of a three-year study, or for the second and third year after successful completion of one year. Students taking a gap year after high school can also be considered for a scholarship once they decide what trade they would like to enter.
A total of 22 students applied for the scholarship this past school year, but with proper publicity that number could at least double, Limoges said. If that were to happen, though, additional money will be needed.
Potential donors might include the very businesses that stand to benefit from those entering the trades, such as medical institutions, auto dealerships, construction contractors, trucking companies and the hospitality industry, Limoges and Bushong suggested.
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