Tolan is passionate about kids in the community |

Tolan is passionate about kids in the community

Robin Tolan wants kids to succeed. In fact, it’s her personal mission in life.

As the director of Junior Achievement of the Roaring Fork Valley, she brings hands-on, real-life economic education to school kids from Aspen to Rifle. As a board member of YouthZone, she’s always trying to find ways to fund the nonprofit organization that helps children at risk.

“I’m passionate about kids,” she said.

In her position as director of Junior Achievement in the valley for six years, Tolan coordinates the varied educational programs offered in the schools.

“We relate the real world to the classroom,” she said. Junior Achievement classes “help students understand the importance of staying in school” by helping them with career choices.

Tolan said a troubling drop-out rate among the area’s two school districts is what drives her organization’s efforts which is to keep kids in schools.

“Four years ago Carbondale had 96 kids graduate from eighth grade. Last year (the high school) had 56 graduates. That’s a disturbing number,” she said.

Classes are taught by community volunteers, local business people who can relate their experiences to students, Tolan said.

When she took over six years ago, Junior Achievement offered 10 classes in area schools; it now offers 70, she said.

One class, “Our City,” teaches elementary school students about city zoning. In the class, students design and build a city themselves with cardboard models. They name it, draw up blueprints and write a newspaper.

“Everything we do is sponsored by local business” and an annual fundraiser, Dial For Kids, which raised $32,000 last year, she said.

Junior Achievement also sponsors an annual junior career day featuring career possibilities presented by local businesses.

Careers don’t necessarily mean getting a college degree, Tolan said.

“You can go to Toyota College and learn to be a mechanic and they pay your way,” she said.

Her work at Junior Achievement is a good tie-in with YouthZone, she said. In YouthZone, “we are trying to connect kids to the community.”

This year the organization is focusing on its PALS program that pairs at-risk kids with mentors. It has developed a “dollars-and-cents course” in which mentors show their pals how to budget their money and open a savings account.

Tolan also works hard to come up with new ways to raise money for YouthZone, besides its annual Kiss and Squeal, kiss-a-pig fundraiser. This year she helped organize the YouthZone Uphill Challenge on Sept. 24, a 5K run, hike or bike from Two Rivers Park up Iron Mountain to the Glenwood Caverns.

Tolan comes to athletic competition naturally. An active athlete herself, her son also shines in that arena. Jack, now at Colorado College, won the Junior Nationals in telemark freestyle two years in a row while he was at Colorado Rocky Mountain School.

She also feels that she is at the right place at the right time.

“I worked with delinquent kids out of college. Then for 15 years I was in real estate marketing and mortgages. Now I’m back where I should be with a worthwhile job and a good life,” she said.

She also credits the community for the success of her work.

“We are very lucky to live in a community where people are so caring,” she said. “It’s very different from growing up in L.A.”

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510

Name: Robin Tolan

Age: 49

Hometown: Santa Monica, Calif.

How long in Garfield County: 10 years

Favorite Place in Garfield County: Red Mountain since it’s my back yard and I’m there almost every day.

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